Clint Dempsey’s failed loan won’t affect his chances of success in Seattle, Brazil


So Clint Dempsey didn’t dress for Fulham today. Again. That’s two matches in a row “Deuce” hasn’t made the team, with potential descriptions of his last appearance ranging from ineffective to embarrassing. Search last December’s version of the internet, find the most pessimistic scenario you can for Dempsey’s loan, and you won’t see one curmudgeon willing to predict it would be this bad. Right now, Dempsey’s only silver lining is his health.

For the diehard U.S. Men’s national team fan, it’s tempting to blame the last place Cottagers, but excluding Dempsey was the right move. After losing at home in the FA Cup to a third-tier club, Fulham boss René Meulensteen was desperate for solutions, ones that will extend beyond Dempsey’s time in West London. Beyond the U.S. captain’s fledgling performance, a now impending departure meant Demspey-centric solutions would be counter productive. Even if he started playing well, Meulensteen would have to go back to the drawing board in March having lost time to find a solution that would last through May. Ultimately, Dempsey just ran out of time.

Within the scope of this summer’s World Cup, Fulham’s are secondary concerns. The bottom line is performance, and there’s no question about it: Dempsey hasn’t performed well in his Premier League return. Worryingly, he also didn’t perform well last season with Seattle, and while he was fine in 2012-13 with Tottenham, he didn’t carry over the production that won him a move from Fulham.

In hindsight, it was always unlikely Dempsey was going to put up those numbers in North London, and a change of role under André Villas-Boas didn’t help. Still, it’s hard to see Dempsey’s play since leaving Craven Cottage as anything but three steps backwards. His production dropped at Spurs, then again with Seattle, and now he’s not even playing with Fulham.

That’s the bad news. The relative good news: Dempsey’s performance in West London will probably have no bearing on his chances of turning it around in Seattle. And when we’re talking about being prepared for the World Cup, these next two-plus months with the Sounders are going to be much more important than his training and fitness exercise with Fulham.

source: AP
In 15 appearances for Seattle in 2013, Clint Dempsey scored once. In seven appearances during his loan with Fulham, the U.S. Men’s National Team captain has failed to add to his club-record 50 Premier League goals. (Photo: AP.)

Even if Dempsey had scored five goals during his time with the Cottagers, the challenges he’s be facing in Seattle would be the same. Sigi Schmid still needs to figure out how to use him, preferably in a role that doesn’t require Dempsey to be the first guy receiving the ball out of the defensive third. Dempsey still needs to adjust to whatever role Schmid defines, and perhaps most importantly, Dempsey needs to go from being a complementary part at Spurs (and during this spell at Fulham) to somebody who can be the focal point of a team – something you can argue he’s never been at club level. Even his best days at Fulham saw him as a highly productive opportunist, not somebody inherently expected to put a team on his shoulders.

And by put a team on his shoulders, I mean be the man who is expected to do something positive to tilt a game in his team’s favor. Let’s take the clichés out of it and define what it means on the field. In those moments when Seattle needs to be productive going forward — when everything you drew up on the white board goes out the window — the Sounders need to be able to depend on Dempsey the same way Real Salt Lake depends on Javier Morales, the LA Galaxy depends on Landon Donovan, or the Portland Timbers depend on Diego Valeri (to go through Seattle’s Western Conference rivals). In 2014, Dempsey needs to be that type of player.

No matter how Dempsey performed with Fulham, he was still going to have to adjust to his role with the Sounders. Success may have given him momentum to carry into the Major League Soccer season; more likely, Dempsey’s going to touch down in Seattle, be in an entirely new environment, and see a whole new set of challenges. Beyond being physically fit, nothing about his time in Fulham was going to help him adjust to life with the Sounders.

His return to West London has been a failure, but in the context of what’s come over the next five months, it’s a very limited one. The real test comes when he returns to the Sounders. That’s where the U.S. captain will really be preparing for this summer’s World Cup. If those preparations go well, Dempsey’s struggles with Fulham will be less than an afterthought.

Injuries leave host Russia limping ahead of World Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) With less than three months to go until the World Cup in Russia, the host nation’s players are dropping like flies.

A spate of knee injuries this year has left the Russians hurrying to find cover at the back and trying to replace a key attacking threat.

[ MORE: Zlatan leaves Man Utd ]

First, center back Georgy Dzhikiya tore his knee ligaments during a friendly in January. The same happened to Viktor Vasin a month later. Russia’s defense was already thin, so those injuries prompted calls for the 35-year-old Berezutsky twins, Alexei and Vasily, to return from international retirement. They refused to do so.

Now coach Stanislav Cherchesov must also seek a replacement for Zenit St. Petersburg forward Alexander Kokorin, who tore his knee ligaments in the Europa League last week. That puts more responsibility on the shoulders of Fyodor Smolov, now likely to be Russia’s undisputed first-choice striker for the World Cup.

“We’re not complaining about anything,” Cherchesov said Thursday. “Fate is often testing us in various ways but we always try to be ready.”

The injuries mean Cherchesov will be forced to experiment during Friday’s friendly against Brazil and Tuesday’s game against France, both at home. Short-term medical issues have ruled three more fringe players out of those games.

Here’s a closer look at the issues facing Russia ahead of the World Cup:


If you had to pick one Russian striker for the World Cup, it might as well be Fyodor Smolov.

On track to be the Russian league’s top scorer for the third season in a row, Smolov has been working on his English skills as he eyes a move to the Premier League.

Smolov was linked with West Ham during the January transfer window but opted to stay with FC Krasnodar, saying he didn’t want to abandon his team as it battles for a spot in the Champions League next season.

With Kokorin almost certainly out of the picture for the World Cup, Russia’s backup options include Anton Zabolotny, who is still settling in at Zenit after a recent move from newly promoted FC Tosno. The 22-year-old Alexei Miranchuk can play as a forward, but is better in a deeper role.


Russian players tend to stay in their domestic league, but there’s one big exception in midfield – Denis Cheryshev.

The winger came through the Real Madrid youth system when his father was coaching there and is now at Villarreal, but frequent injuries have dented hopes he can add some spice to the national team.

Now he’s fit again and in the squad to face Brazil and France.

Elsewhere in the midfield, there are the promising and creative youngsters Roman Zobnin and Alexander Golovin, but Russia doesn’t currently have a dominant defensive midfielder.


Cherchesov has a reputation as a difficult coach to get along with, and Russian media have regularly reported fallings-out with various players.

One of those outside the squad is Igor Denisov, who last played for Russia in 2016. He has been playing well in a defensive midfield role this season for Lokomotiv Moscow, the team at the top of the Russian league standings. Denisov and Cherchesov clashed during the latter’s time as Dynamo Moscow coach.

Also absent from the squad is forward Artyom Dzyuba. A talented striker who has scored 11 goals in 22 games for Russia but has a reputation for being hot-headed, Dzyuba was deemed surplus to requirements at Zenit and sent on loan to Arsenal Tula. In three games there, he has scored three goals and set up two more to put himself back in the World Cup contention.


Russia’s soccer team hasn’t escaped the country’s doping scandals.

Defensive midfielder Ruslan Kambolov is under investigation by FIFA for a possible doping case revealed by Moscow laboratory documents, but hasn’t been suspended.

The team’s schedule was disrupted Wednesday by drug-testing, which took more than five hours and delayed training. On Thursday, the team said five more doping control officers turned up to take samples from the team.

Wilshere injured, could play in England’s second friendly

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I have no idea what tendinopathy means, but Arsenal and England will be hoping it’s only a minor thing for Jack Wilshere.

[ MORE: Zlatan leaves Man Utd ]

The resurgent Gunners midfielder is going to miss at least one of England’s friendlies this international break after suffering a knee injury in training.

“Jack just felt some tendinopathy in his knee but it’s nothing too serious,” Southgate said. “We decided to leave him back at base and see how he responds, and we hope to have him with us on Saturday.”

England is in Netherlands on Friday, and returns to London to host Italy at Wembley on Tuesday.

Arsenal doesn’t play until April 1 when it visits Stoke City.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

[ MORE: MLS All Stars vs. Juventus ]

The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.