US national team, World Cup player profile: Clint Dempsey

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Given the draw the U.S. has at this summer’s World Cup (with both Germany and Portugal in its group), every player’s performance may be make-or-break. If the U.S. is going to return to the knockout round, it’s going to need an optimal effort from stars and role players alike. Weaknesses will be exploited, while a team without strengths will fail to take points needed to reach the knockout round. There will be no margin for error.

Clint Dempsey needs to be one of his team’s strengths. With an international club résumé that’s the envy of almost all of his out-field teammates, the U.S. captain is one of the few players who, if he goes on a hot streak, can give his team a shot at the second round. Particularly with Jozy Altidore struggling and the likes of Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya lacking World Cup experience, Dempsey can leverage lessons from Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 to help the U.S. at Brazil 2014.

Surprisingly, he has been around that long. The player whose athleticism allowed him to thrive with New England from 2004 to 2006 has become a player who can be a difference-maker on a bigger sage. Whether he will remains to be seen, but with Jurgen Klinsmann’s team built around the idea Dempsey can be a focal point out of the back, the fortunes of “Deuce” may dictate whether the U.S. can survive the World Cup’s first cut.

MORE: USMNT player profiles

Full name: Clinton Drew Dempsey

Age: 31

Hometown: Nacogdoches, Texas

Position: Forward, Attacking midfielder

Caps/goals: 103 caps, 36 goals

Club: Seattle Sounders

Best moment in a U.S. shirt: Dempsey’s goal at the 2009 Confederations Cup is so memorable, it’s often difficult to recall Jozy Altidore, with his score in the 29th minute, putting the U.S. ahead of Spain long before the then-Fulham man’s opportunism’s put the match away. After Benny Feilhaber played a ball across the six-yard box late in a 1-0 game between the U.S. and the top-rated Spaniards, Dempsey pounced on a ball trapped by Sergio Ramos, beating Iker Casillas to help snap the European champions’ 35-match unbeaten run.

Starter or squad player at World Cup? Dempsey is more than a starter. He’s the captain, he’s the focal point, and although it’s unclear whether he’s the team’s best player, he may be its most important. Increasingly, and ever since he was awarded Carlos Bocanegra’s captaincy, this is Dempsey’s team. It’s difficult to imagine the team going far without him performing well.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”