At least temporarily, Clint Dempsey is the joint-MLS leader in goals, his hat trick in Portland, Ore., vaulting him to four on the season. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Three from Dempsey, two from Chara leave Seattle tied in Portland, 4-4

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Eight goals and a hat trick from the player who has quickly become a focal point of the Portland-Seattle battle made the season’s first meeting between Cascadia rivals an all-time classic, even if the Timbers and their fans left Providence Parks with misgiving about the team’s late collapse. Giving up goals in the 85th and 87th minutes to complete a Clint Dempsey hat trick, the Timbers saw a two-goal lead descend into a 4-4 draw, a result that leaves Caleb Porter’s team winless on the season.

Portland now sits 0-2-3 after five matches, having yet to win or lose at home. Seattle, on the other hand, overcame last week’s late heartbreak against Columbus to inflict some disappointment of their own, with Dempsey’s late conversion from the spot leaving the team 2-2-1 on the season.

Seattle’s Kenny Cooper opened the scoring in the third minute as the Sounders covered their first corner kick, but goals in the ninth and 14th minutes from Diegos Chara and Valeri gave Portland its first lead before the quarter-hour mark. Clint Dempsey’s second goal of the season in the 24th minute allowed Seattle to go into halftime tied, 2-2, but early second half goals from Chara and Maxi Urruti handed the hosts a 4-2 lead.

source: Getty Images
At least temporarily, Clint Dempsey is the joint-MLS leader in goals, his hat trick in Portland, Ore., vaulting him to four on the season. (Photo: Getty Images.)

In the 85th minute, a cross from Lamar Neagle saw Obafemi Martins find Clint Dempsey at the edge of the six-yard box, with the U.S. captain’s third goal of the season bringing his team within one. Two minutes later, after DeAndre Yedlin was brought down in the penalty area by Ben Zemanski, Dempsey’s third goal of the afternoon salvaged a point for the Sounders.

Dempsey, who arrived in Seattle in the middle of last season, has become a lightning rod for fans of a team that sat atop the league’s Allocation Order at the time of his arrival. Now the target of Timber fan derision, Dempsey’s three-goal statement marks his first salvo to the opposition support, with Portland’s crowd left stunned after he engineered Seattle’s response.

Seattle was on the board with the first good chance of the match in the minute when a corner from Gonzalo Pineda found Jalil Anibaba unmarked just beyond the far post, 10 yards from the byline. The defenders volley was headed into the right side of goal before Kenny Cooper touched it, but with the former Timber creeping in a the far post, Anibaba’s teammate tapped home the game’s first goal.

Just before the nine-minute-mark, however, an unlikely source brought the Timbers even. On a ball played toward the middle just inside Portland’s attacking third, Chara won possession from Pineda and drove toward goal. Pulling up just outside the penalty area, the Colombian beat Stefan Frei into the left of goal, a soft right hand from the Sounders keep unable to stop the midfielder’s first goal in three years.

Two minutes later, Cooper nearly had his second of the match, drawing a leaping save from former Sounder Andrew Weber that kept the ball from finding his upper-right hand corner. It was a stop that proved especially valuable two minutes later as Portland look its first lead of the season.

source: Getty Images
Diego Valeri’s first goal of the season made it 2-1 on Saturday in Portland, Ore. (Photo credit: Getty Images.)

Off a Chara-forced turnover in the center circle, the Timbers quickly found Darlington Nagbe on the left, who played wide for the oncoming Michael Harrington.  The Portland left back’s pass to Diego Valeri found the Argentine with Anibaba at his back, something that proved irrelevant as the Timbers’ creator turned on a left-footed shot that found the top of Frei’s goal, making it 2-1.

Ten minutes later, the Sounders were back even. A Norberto Paparatto giveaway in his defensive third allowed Cooper to play the ball back in to Osvaldo Alonso, who headed toward the middle of the field for Obafemi Martins. Caught out after the bad giveaway, Portland had nobody to mark Clint Dempsey, who Martins found in the middle of the area for Seattle’s second goal.

Chances for Cooper (who forced another diving stop from Weber), Max Urruti, and Dempsey saw a first half primed for goals end with four, something the changed early in the second. With two goals within 12 minutes of kickoff, Portland had the day’s first two-goal lead.

In the 55th minute, it was Chara again, this time with help from Alvas Powell and Kalif Alhassan. The end product, however, was much the same as his first half goal. Allowed to carry the ball toward the edge of Seattle’s penalty area, Chara again beat Frei into the left of how, his court Major League Soccer goal giving his team their second lead of the day.

Two minute later, Seattle handed Portland a four. After an ill-advised back pass from Cooper, Anibaba had the ball taken off him by Urruti on the edge of his defensive third. The Argentine forward went in alone on goal, with Chad Marshall trying in vain to catch up as the 23-year-old curled his shot inside the right post, giving the Timbers a two-goal lead.

In the 85th minute, after the Timbers seemed destined to claim victory, Dempsey recovered one of Portland’s second half goals, finishing from close range after a buildup down the right found him in front of Weber’s goal.

Two minutes later, Seattle’s unlikely comeback was completed. After a run behind the defense saw Yedlin pulled down by Zemanski in the right of the penalty area, Dempsey finished in the middle of Weber’s goal, his hat trick leaving the Sounders on even footing after the eight-goal shootout.

The result also snaps Seattle’s three-match losing streak to their arch rivals, who had eliminated them from last year’s playoffs. Meanwhile, Portland’s winless run to start the year is at five, with the team’s defense continuing to prove a liability.

Robbie Keane still entertaining offers ahead of return

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Soccer Player Robbie Keane arrives at the Premiere of IFC Films' "Pele: Birth Of A Legend" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
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Robbie Keane is still sorting out his future, and it seems unlikely he’s heading back to the past.

Keane is training in Dublin ahead of a return to the pitch. The 36-year-old striker left the LA Galaxy this offseason, and says he’s had several offers from Championship squads in England as well as a few clubs abroad.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Although he’s starred for Wolverhampton and Leeds, destinations where fans would welcome his arrival, Keane says not to hold your breath.

From TalkSport.com:

“I’ve had a lot of people asking me about coming back to Leeds and Wolves, and they’re great clubs I’ve played for, but you can’t go somewhere if people actually don’t offer you anything.

“Until it’s actually in writing to me I can’t comment much on it, but I definitely haven’t heard from Leeds or Wolves.”

Whether Stateside or in England, Keane can still have an impact on a team’s fortunes. We look forward to seeing him back on the field, and to hear some more quips as well.

Consider his answer to whether he’d entertain an offer from China:

“If they gave the money Diego Costa was offered, I’d walk there now,” Keane said.

Galaxy adds center mid from Portuguese top flight

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LA Galaxy’s roster reformation continues with the addition of Joao Pedro, a day after formalizing a deal with USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones.

The 23-year-old center midfielder was with Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal’s top flight, and comes to the club as a “Special Discovery Player” with Targeted Allocation Money.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Pedro has a goal in 17 appearances this season, as Vitoria Guimaraes sits fifth in the Primeira Liga.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“Joao is an extremely talented midfielder who has experience playing at a high level in Portugal,” said Galaxy general manager Peter Vagenas in a written statement released by the club.

“He is only 23 years old and has the best years of his career front of him. We identified him as a top target this offseason and we think he can immediately help strengthen our midfield. We look forward to welcoming Joao to Los Angeles as we continue to prepare for the upcoming season.”

Pedro was a regular for Vitoria Guimaraes but is far from a certainty to star for the Galaxy. We do know that Vagenas has probably done his research as to whether Pedro fits with Jermaine Jones.

AFCON wrap: Senegal clinches first knockout round slot

Senegal's, Sadio Mane, right, is challenged by Zimbabwe's, Willard Katsande, left, during the African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match between Senegal and Zimbabwe at, Stade de Franceville Stadium, in Franceville, Gabon Thursday Jan. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Senegal has advanced to the knockout rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations, leaving three teams to work for the second Group B slot come the final day.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Senegal 2-0 Zimbabwe

Sadio Mane (Liverpool) and Henri Saivet (Saint-Etienne) scored within the first 13 minutes as Senegal clinched Group B with a win over Zimbabwe. There were 48 shots between the two teams, 24 for Senegal, in a fairly open affair. As for the Warriors, they’ll need to beat Tunisia on Monday.

Algeria 1-2 Tunisia

Tunisia rebounded from a loss to Senegal without scoring from the run of play. Lille mid Naim Sliti scored a penalty after an Algeria own goal made it 1-0. Anderlecht midfielder Sofiane Hanni scored for Algeria.

Friday’s matches
Ivory Coast vs. DR Congo — 11 a.m. ET
Morocco vs. Togo — 11 a.m. ET

Wenger concerned Chinese wages become benchmark for players

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 15:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on during an Arsenal press conference ahead of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match against Barcelona at Camp Nou on March 15, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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LONDON (AP) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is hoping the high quality of competition in Europe will keep players from leaving for the financial gain in China.

Wenger is facing regular questions about the future of both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and the big money on offer in the Chinese league can complicate negotiations.

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Argentine striker Carlos Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua last month in a deal worth $40 million over two years.

“The danger (is) that the Chinese offers become the benchmark for Europe,” Wenger said Thursday. “You cannot compete with that, but I still think that, when you’re a footballer, the first thing is that you want to play against the best players in the best teams.”

Wenger said players that want the best compensation for playing in the best quality league need not look to Asia.

“I think that combination is the best in England at the moment, so I don’t see why the players should leave the English Premier League,” Wenger said.

Wenger, whose team is fourth in the standings, has made only one signing in the January transfer window, picking up defender Cohen Bramall from non-league club Hednesford.

Arsenal has also decided to keep captain Per Mertesacker for another season. Wenger announced Thursday that the club has taken up a one-year option to extend the contract of the 32-year-old German, who has not played this season because of a knee injury sustained during a friendly in July.

Mertesacker faces a fight to get back into the team because Shkodran Mustafi, an offseason signing from Valencia, has built a strong partrnership with vice captain Laurent Koscielny at the heart of Wenger’s defense.