Clint Dempsey joins Lionel Messi on cover of EA Sports’ FIFA15

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Clint Dempsey’s occupied a place atop the U.S. soccer world since his return from England, but the scope of that stature may have truly hit home on Saturday, when “Deuce” was given what’s become a celebrated honor. What the cover of a Wheaties box was to the last generation, the front of EA Sports’ FIFA video game is to ours, with Dempsey selected to join Barcelona star Lionel Messi in receiving this year’s honor in the North American market.

Announcing the choice Saturday in Seattle, EA also unveiled two slightly different covers: One that features the U.S. captain in his international kit (for Sony’s PS4, above); the other highlighting XBox’s sponsorship of the Seattle Sounders (below).

“Clint Dempsey is a world class athlete that embodies the heart and soul of the sport,” said Stuart Lang, Electronic Arts’s vice president of North American marketing said in a statement. “He is the perfect ambassador for FIFA 15, a game that’s all about bringing the emotion and intensity of the sport to life.”

source:  Speaking about the honor, Dempsey alluded to the franchise’s part in cultivating soccer’s fan base in North America.

“It’s an amazing opportunity in my career to be on the cover for FIFA 15, a game that has played a big role in growing the popularity of the sport in America,” said Dempsey. “To join the class of other elite athletes who have appeared on previous covers is very humbling and I am extremely grateful for this honor.”

On one level, Dempsey seems like a no brainer for the spot. He’s the national team captain in a World Cup year. His move to Seattle was major national news. His hot start to the season completely overshadowed his struggles with Fulham. Things have worked out pretty well for Deuce since coming home.

There were, however, other options. Tim Howard would have been a logical choice, considering his popularity during the World Cup. Michael Bradley is slowly becoming the face of the U.S. national team, while EA has made strainer choices than putting a young star like DeAndre Yedlin on the cover.

After seeing the cover, though, Dempsey looks at home. As the U.S.’s most-prominent player, one who plays for MLS’s highest profile team, “Deuce” was a natural for the cover.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.