Clint Dempsey needs to be on next plane back to Seattle

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Another match has come and gone at Fulham, another one with big Premier League implications … and yet another one with no sight of Clint Dempsey.

Yet again, the struggling U.S. international did not make the 18-man game-day roster for, this time for a new manager as debuting boss Felix Magath. That’s three in a row with Dempsey nowhere to be seen.

Magath is well within his right to do what he thinks best for Fulham; the Cottagers, a small-budget club that has worked virtual miracles by remaining in the land’s highest division year after year lately, has big work ahead to remain so once again. There is no room for error – nor for worrying about any one player’s personal plight.

But here’s the deal as it relates to Dempsey:

We discovered recently that his loan agreement between Fulham, MLS and the Seattle Sounders allows the U.S. attacker to remain in London through the first day of March; Fulham hosts Chelsea in a West London derby a week from today, so he would presumably be available.

It’s a huge match for the clubs who share the fashionable, tony West London neighborhood; their grounds are separated by about a 20-minute walk – and a nice 20-minute walk, at that.

But never mind that; Dempsey should be on the next plane out of Heathrow.

It’s no longer time to worry about whether this loan has “worked” or “hasn’t worked” or whatever for Dempsey. Far more important, and the bottom line here: He’s a peripheral figure at very best around Craven Cottage and, at this point, Dempsey will be no key figure in whether Fulham survives to relegation beast.

It’s time for him to fulfil his much larger club obligation the one to Seattle.

He’s still the league’s second-highest paid player, and easily the top dog, wage-wise, around Century Link Field. That should count for a lot in the calculus here.

(MORE: Fulham draws at West Brom in Felix Magath managerial debut)

Calling it a day around Craven Cottage and getting back here isn’t just about the practical element that is all too clear: he’d be doing pretty much the same thing in London or in the States, training rather than playing (which is why Dempsey went abroad for the two-month spell, for the chance to play in high-level matches).

It’s also about reminding his Sounders teammates that Seattle – and a big year around the ground, especially for embattled manager Sigi Schmid – is his top priority in terms of club pursuits.

Let’s not forget, Dempsey will miss a bunch of time in May and June, at least six weeks, while on World Cup duty.

It’s too bad this loan spell didn’t work out as everyone would have liked … it’s time to tie this one off and get back into the team that is paying him so handsomely to be a main-man mainstay.

Jonas nets 2 late goals to keep Benfica in title hunt

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Jonas scored two late goals to lead Benfica’s 3-1 comeback win at Pacos Ferreira on Saturday, keeping it close to Portuguese league leader FC Porto.

Jonas equalized in the 72nd minute and gave the defending champion the lead in the 88th.

[ MORE: Man United-Chelsea meet in giant Sunday PL clash ]

Rafa Silva added a third goal after the host was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Gian dos Santos was shown a direct red card.

Luiz Phellype gave Pacos Ferreira the lead in the ninth.

The double increased Jonas’ league-leading tally to 27 goals.

Benfica moved to within two points of Porto before the pacesetter visits Portimonense on Sunday.

Sporting Lisbon is third at five points behind Porto. It hosts Moreirense on Monday.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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