Clint Dempsey, in his own words: Seattle star on his three-goal day in Portland


Expect to hear ‘it was only one game’ a lot this week, because all the criticism of Clint Dempsey isn’t going to die down overnight. Yet with a hat trick in Portland — exactly the type of performance we’re used to seeing from an in-form “Deuce” — Dempsey did more than stumble onto a few goals. He found his old self. Considering that self has been slowly resurfacing since his return from Fulham, this afternoon’s performance represents the culmination of a long comeback.

Not that Dempsey sees it that way. After his three-goal performance in Seattle’s 4-4 draw in Portland, Dempsey was his normal, even keel self. If a monkey had just jumped off his back, it had also quickly scurried out of the room. There was no evidence that the Seattle star had just finished a breakout performance.

Here’s the U.S. captain, in his own words.

“I’m not really trying to make a statement.”

On what his performance, coming off a two-match suspension, meant:

“I’m not really trying to make a statement. I’m just trying to enjoy playing my ball here with the Seattle Sounders.

“The important thing is that the team does well. It’s about the team … Our goal is to try to get to MLS Cup. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

“A little sweeter against your rivals.”

More thoughts on his hat trick:

“It always feels good to score goals – a little bit sweeter against your rivals. At the same time, it more important thing is points. We got a point today, and we need to make sure that we win our games at home, we make it a fortress, and that we’re getting those three points that we need. We need to make sure that we push up the table, [because] we have the quality in our side. That’s where we should be.”

“I’ll get him a soda pop.”

On taking the late penalty, when it originally appeared midfielder Gonzalo Pineda would take the shot.

“He was feeling confident to take it. I was feeling confident to take it. Also, scoring two goals in the game, I was feeling I was in a little bit of a rhythm. Credit to him for giving me the opportunity to go with that rhythm and build upon that confidence and to get that hat trick. Maybe after the game, I’ll get him a soda pop.”

 “It was important for me to go on loan.”

On how he’s feeling, overall:

“I feel good. It was important for me to go on loan and get my body right, get my fitness level up. Coming back into MLS, I feel like I’ve been able to contirbute in a positive way, and also with the national team, I felt like I was able to put in a good 90.

“I felt that goal that we (the U.S.) created on the third goal that they called offsides was a good goal, was onsides, and it should have counted.

“But we’re happy with the point today when it looked like we weren’t going to have anything. It’s about moving forward.”

 “I was a little bit tired.”

On whether there was a chance he wouldn’t start, coming off a mid-week game with the U.S. Men’s National Team.

“I always like to play. It’s always a tough call, when you do travel a lot. It was only three hours, but if today’s game had been on the east coast, I think it would have been a difficult game to try and start, because if you look at some of the players’ history, especially Seattle because of the long flights, [players] come into the games, sometimes they happen to pick up injuries.

“But for me, I was feeling good, and I wanted to go as long as I can. Sigi told me before the game ‘if you can go 60, give us 60.’ He felt it’d be better to do that then come off the bench. I agreed with him.

“At the end of the day we were able to get the point, but I was a little bit tired. Now i’m excited about getting a full week with the team in training and into the next game.”

“That point today felt like more than a point … It felt like a win.”

On the importance of the comeback and the result:

“(We) had a mountain to climb to get back into the game., but credit to our team. We showed a lot of character fighting to get a point away from home against our rivals, an important point. I think it’s a build block and somehting that will give us a boost going into the next game.”

“It says that we don’y give up. We keep fighting until the end. I think we’ve always showed that, even the last playoff game here when we were down by three goals. We never give up. We keep fighting, keep pushing.

“That point today felt like more than a point. It felt like a win. It’s kind of a momentum building going into next week.”

Southgate praises rising star, possible no. 1 Pickford

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With fewer than three months to the start of the 2018 World Cup, the majority of Gareth Southgate‘s England squad has largely sorted itself over the course of the current Premier League season.

[ MORE: New USMNT kits for 2018 World Cup ]

With everyone healthy and available — a big ask, granted — the likes of Kyle Walker, John Stones, Danny Rose, Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane practically pick themselves for the starting 11, with Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy having secured significant roles off the bench.

One position, however, which remains far from set in stone is the man in goal. Joe Hart has long since fallen from his former place as the cemented no. 1, meanwhile Jack Butland and Fraser Forster failed to make the most of their sporadic chances over the course of the last couple years.

[ MORE: France blow a lead, lose to Colombia; England top Holland ]

Enter: Jordan Pickford, who started and played all 90 minutes — and massively impressed Southgate — in the Three Lions’ 1-0 victory over Holland. Southgate singled out the 24-year-old Everton goalkeeper for praise following the game, remarking that Pickford’s ability to start the process of playing the ball out of the back “allows [England] to play in a different way” — quotes from BT Sport:

“He transferred what we know he can do into an important game, a game away from home, so that was good for him.

“I think (it was) not the test that we faced in November (friendlies against Germany and Brazil) in terms of the pressure on our defense and the experience of the players.

“But, nevertheless, I think that’s 11 clean sheets from our 16 games and that gives us a good base to build from.”

“I think it allows you to play in a different way. There are moments where the goalkeeper or a defender can come and put the ball into the stand or play it forward hopefully.

“But if you can play with composure and play through and out of pressure then it (eases) off the opposition in terms of their pressure and eventually they stop running and you have more time in different areas of the field. The profile of all of that defense and goalkeeper allowed us to do that.”

Don’t look now, but this appears to be the most settled and established England side heading into a major tournament… well, probably in my lifetime. What if England are good — or, worse — really good?

Like clockwork, top goalkeepers criticize new World Cup ball

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It’s a tradition as old as time — the union of top goalkeepers from all over the world, no matter the continent from which they hail, complaining about the new ball to be used at the upcoming World Cup.

[ MORE: New USMNT kits for 2018 World Cup ]

By the end of this summer’s tournament in Russia, you’ll reflexively twitch every time you hear the words “Telstar 18.” Goalkeepers will tell you that it’s designed to deceive them, to boost goalscoring numbers during major tournaments.

Below you’ll find the critical, but restrained so as not to offend, assessments of goalkeepers David De Gea (Spain’s no. 1), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Germany’s no. 1b) and Pepe Reina (De Gea’s wily backup) — quotes from FourFourTwo:

“It’s really strange. It could have been made a lot better.”

“The ball could be better; it moves a lot. But I think we’re just going to have to get used to working with it — and try to get to grips with it as quickly as possible before the World Cup starts. We’ve got no other option.”

“They should change it. There’s still time.”

[ MORE: France blow a lead, lose to Colombia; England top Holland ]

Unsurprisingly, top attacking stars — those who presumably stand to benefit from a ball that unpredictably moves on goalkeepers — have given their seal of approval for Telstar 18.

MLS (afternoon) roundup: NYCFC come back vs. NE; FCD, POR stalemate

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Ismael Tajouri scored two goals and Sean Johnson had five saves to help New York City FC play the New England Revolution to a 2-2 draw Saturday.

The 23-year-old Tajouri, who has appeared in four MLS games, has three goals in the last two matches while filling in for the injured David Villa.

Yangel Herrera threaded a pass between two defenders to Tajouri, who turned and blasted a rising left-footer into the net to cap the scoring in the 76th minute.

Diego Fagundez bent a shot from well outside the box off the post to give New England (1-1-1) a 1-0 lead in the 11th. Tajouri tied it early in the second half, first-timing a cross from Saad Abdul-Salaam past a diving Matt Turner from near the penalty spot and Juan Agudelo’s header in the 63rd put the Revolution back in front. Cristian Penilla played a perfect cross from the left side to Agudelo who finished from the top of the 6-yard box.

NYCFC (4-0-0) is off to its best start in history and has won a franchise-record five in a row, dating to the 2017 playoffs.

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Roland Lamah scored his third goal in two games and Jimmy Maurer had a career-high five saves in FC Dallas’ 1-1 tie with the Portland Timbers on Saturday.

Lamah, who had two goals and an assists in FC Dallas’ 3-0 win over Seattle on Sunday, opened the scoring in the 36th minute. Jacori Hayes evaded two defenders and then tapped it to Lamah, who rolled a left-footer past a diving Jake Gleeson into the net from the top of the penalty arc.

Sebastian Blanco side-netted a left-footer from the top of the box to tie it in the 47th.

FC Dallas (1-0-2) is unbeaten in its last nine home matches.

Lawrence Olum, who was shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior in the 44th minute, drew a red for a hand ball in the 75th for Portland (0-2-1).

Report: PSG pressing Conte to leave Chelsea this summer

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First, Paris Saint-Germain (reportedly) wanted Mauricio Pochettino; then it was (reportedly) Diego Simeone; now it’s Antonio Conte who’s (you guessed it — reportedly) been targeted for, and pitched, an exit from Chelsea this summer.

[ MORE: Conte, Pirlo could spearhead Italy managerial team ]

According to a report from the Guardian, PSG executives have held talks with Conte’s agent in recent days and/or weeks, as the winners of four of the last five Ligue 1 titles prepare to move on from current manager Unai Emery this summer.

The belief in the French capital is that Conte, who’s made no bones about his frustrations at Chelsea dating back to last summer, would be a far more realistic target for that reason. According to the report, PSG are willing to offer Conte an annual salary in the neighborhood of $14 million. The Italian is currently paid nearly $13.5 million per year at Chelsea.

Conte has been at odds with the Chelsea hierarchy, largely, over the lack of funds made available to him to rebuild the squad in the transfer market.

“I have great ambition but I don’t have money for Chelsea. The club knows very well what is my idea, what is my ambition. That is very clear. When you decide to work with this type of coach, you must understand that you take a coach with great ambition. Not a loser but a winner. And that ambition must always be shared.”

[ MORE: Man City, Man United reportedly chasing Neymar ]

Talks are said to have been “positive” between Conte’s representative and PSG.

PSG’s motivation to fire Emery stems from the Spaniard’s failure to impress in European competition — two round-of-16 exits from the Champions League, one either side of the massive spending spree of last summer which resulted in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe moving to the Parc des Princes.