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

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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.”

Bayern Munich activates clause to make Coman permanent

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Bayern Munich has announced its decision to make Kingsley Coman’s loan from Juventus a permanent move.

Coman, 20, operates as a right wing and striker, and can also play on the left. He’s made 40 Bundesliga appearances with six goals and six assists over two seasons for Bayern.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

It’s a $24 million option, and will bind Coman to Bayern through the 2019-20 season.

From FCBayern.com:

“Kingsley Coman is a crucial player for the future of our team, so we’ve decided to exercise the option,” commented Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: “Kingsley is a promising player with great potential. We’re convinced he’ll help us in the coming years.”

Coman, Renato Sanches, and Joshua Kimmich are all under the age of 22.

Mourinho has chance to make major statement in Manchester Derby

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The betting market says Man City is more than even money to beat Manchester United, and wagering on the latter to win Thursday’s derby match is a longer shot than the Red Devils finishing in the Top Four (an achievement to be sure).

The worth of those metrics is debatable, but allows a sincere thought: Given their thin depth and the road challenge, a win for Jose Mourinho would be as impressive as almost anything Manchester United has accomplished this season.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Maybe that’s obvious to many of us, but a twirl through the spheres of United supporter social media shows something different. Many Red Devils are confident of their teams’ fortunes in Thursday’s Manchester Derby, with one even predicting a 3-1 win in a comment on the NBC Sports Soccer Facebook page.

That could be an outlier, sure, but shows the demands Manchester United supporters place on their big spending club. United won’t have Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, two of the best players in the world, and it’s not as if the club has had time to adjust to their absences. No one has played more minutes for United than Pogba and Ibrahimovic this season.

United is also without Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, and Phil Jones at the heart of their defense as it attempts to shut down Sergio Aguero and/or Gabriel JesusDavid Silva is a doubt for City, who also may not have John Stones, but Guardiola has options.

How Mourinho attacks — or doesn’t attack — City, and how Guardiola sets up his XI, will be interesting leading into the match, because parking the bus lacks its usual luster given the center back carnage. Will Mourinho trot out Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera in a bid to clog the midfield? Will he run Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford as a strike pair?

The answers to these questions and the unlikely event of a United road win may end up shining all over Thursday. And while that win would wind up being overshadowed by United’s finish on the Premier League table and UEFA Europa League, there’s little doubt it would stake a serious claim for Mourinho’s time at United being on the rise.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

liverpoolfc.com