Clint Dempsey is barely even a noticable figure at Fulham

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It’s all going wrong for Clint Dempsey at the club level.

He was supposed to be moving upwards into the Champions League – his lifelong aspiration – when he moved to Tottenham. He hardly saw the field.

He was supposed to be escaping obscurity and moving home to help the Seattle Sounders make their deepest ever run in the MLS playoffs. They flopped down the stretch and meekly bowed out in the first round.

And now, he’s supposed to make a triumphant return to Craven Cottage, taking two months to turn things around, sharpen his game, and maybe save the club he once earned Player of the Year honors.

Except he hasn’t done any of those.

As Fulham dive further and further into the murky depths of the Premier League table, the biggest concern around the United States remains the form of their national team’s 30-year-old captain.

He hasn’t exactly played badly, but the problem is he hasn’t done anything – at all.

Since joining Fulham at the beginning of the new year, he’s played in four matches for the Premier League side – two in the league and two in the FA Cup. The Cottagers lost three of those (including a thumping by Jozy Altidore’s relegation-threatened Sunderland), scoring a mere two goals in those games. Dempsey was involved in neither.

The scariest part of it all is that the Texas native moves around the pitch like he’s running underwater.  He has no drive, no pace, and no confidence.

It hasn’t helped that Dempsey has been an afterthought in manager Rene Meulensteen’s on-field tactics, with most of the buildup played through the wings, with players like Alex Kacaniklic and Ashkan Dejagah the focus of Fulham’s attack today in the loss to Swansea.

But Dempsey has looked like a lost child when he is involved.  Take a look at his received passes in the Premier League losses to Swansea and Arsenal:

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He’s all over the field with no clear direction, and the attacking third is an absolute wasteland. Dempsey has barely sniffed the ball in the attacking third not just in those two matches but overall at Craven Cottage. It’s disheartening not just for USMNT fans but for Fulham supporters yearning for the Dempsey of old. Instead, they have a shell of his former self.

In addition to his lack of output, Dempsey’s fitness has been an issue.  In his three Premier League matches, the midfielder was substituted out twice, in the 71st minute and 79th minute, and on both occasions it was about 10 minutes too late.

Whether he can turn things around for the MLS season is one thing, but the question is quickly becoming can Clint turn things around for the World Cup? An essential piece of Jurgen Klinsmann’s national side, a Clint Dempsey in poor form would certainly go a long way to derail the United States’ chances for even escaping their group.

Hopefully, for Fulham’s sake, for the Seattle Sounders’ sake, for the national team’s sake, and for his own personal good, Clint Dempsey can turn things around, because his subpar club performances are becoming more than just an occurrence, they’re becoming a trend.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.

Conte praises Hazard’s style, wouldn’t want him to be “more selfish”

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Antonio Conte made two bold decisions on Saturday afternoon as his Chelsea side prepared to take on Tottenham in their FA Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu shines with Saints as he prepares for Chelsea return ]

The Italian manager has been known for his innovation and risk-taking in the past, but many were critical of the 47-year-old when his team sheet came out ahead of the match.

Conte left key attacking duo Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench, allowing out-of-favor striker Michy Batshuayi and Pedro to get the starting nod.

Although Hazard nor Costa saw the field for the opening hour, the former made his presence known when he was summoned by Conte in the second half.

Often times Hazard has been known as a facilitator, someone that can pick apart defenses with his tremendous foot skills and clever passing. But the Belgian international has also shown his capabilities of scoring on a regular basis as well, which has prompted great interest from other giant clubs around Europe.

When Conte was asked about Hazard and if his attacker should be more selfish, the Italian gave an emphatic “NO” as his response.

“No, no, no, absolutely not,” Conte said. “I don’t think that a player like Messi is a selfish player. The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talent into the team. If you do this, the team [increases] your talent.

“The best players in the world don’t exist without a team. For me, it’s sad to listen to this, that a player must ‘be more selfish’ to reach the top level. That’s very sad. It’s not my idea of football and I will never understand this. Never, never. In my team, I don’t want selfish players.

“I prefer to lose a game than to have a selfish player. For me, I don’t want this and I can’t accept this. I don’t want my club to buy me a selfish player one day. Never. No.”

Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League

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Two sides have now booked their trips to England’s top flight after Newcastle United rattled off its 27th win of the season.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu — The perfectly poised destroyer ]

The Magpies earned a decisive 4-1 victory over Preston North End on Monday afternoon at St. James’ Park as the second-place side ensured its finish inside the top two in the English Championship.

Newcastle joins already-promoted club Brighton & Hove Albion, who currently sit atop the Championship on 92 points.

Ayoze Perez paced the hosts with goals on both sides of halftime, while Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie also converted for Newcastle.

U.S. Men’s National Team defender DeAndre Yedlin was on the bench for the Magpies but didn’t feature in Monday’s match.

The third and final team to be promoted from the Championship will be decided by the league’s annual promotion playoff, which is held at the end of the season and contested by four sides that finish third through sixth position.

As it stands, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Fulham occupy the four playoff positions.

Marseille making Olivier Giroud top transfer target this summer

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Marseille did well to bring in one star this season but could the French side have another trick up its sleeve this summer?

Sky Sports is reporting that the Ligue 1 club is preparing to sign Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud over the summer and the sixth-place side is “willing to pay up to £20m (roughly $25 million).

Marseille made a splash this season when the club re-signed Dimitri Payet, who was playing with Premier League side West Ham at the time.

The team does boast several quality attacking options such as Payet and Bafetimbi Gomis, but Giroud could serve as an ideal target man in the Marseille attack.

Prior to joining the Gunners in 2012, Giroud starred for Montpellier and with a potential link-up in the attack with a creator like Payet, it could present a dangerous attacking threat to the rest of Ligue 1.

Giroud, 30, has scored 95 goals in all competitions since arriving in London with Arsenal.