Two for Deuce sees Dempsey lead Tottenham to FA Cup win

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Whether it be from formation change or the form of teammates, Clint Dempsey’s not taking any challenge to his playing time lightly. Just as he’s done throughout his career, Dempsey’s responded almost immediately, his Saturday return to Spurs’ starting lineup producing two goals in Tottenham’s 3-0 FA Cup win over Coventry City.

Dempsey missed two games over the Christmas period with a groin injury. Since he’s return to health, he’s been featured off the bench, but with André Villas-Boas changing near-half his team for today’s game at White Hart Lane, Dempsey found himself back in Spurs’ starting XI.

MORE: Ba debut highlights Chelsea rout

Since the game wasn’t broadcast here in the States (and highlights are scarce, at this point), let’s trust the words of those on the scene. From The Guardian:

Tottenham’s opening goal arrived in the 14th minute – Gareth Bale rose highest at the near post to flick on Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free-kick, and Clint Dempsey smashed the resulting opportunity into the roof of the net from five yards.

Sounds like a very typical Dempsey goal – right place, right time, right finish.

More, on Dempsey’s part in the next two goals:

Inevitably, though, Bale volleyed home from an acute angle after Dempsey’s shot had ballooned off-target in the 33rd minute. Dempsey then bagged another himself with a looping header from a corner four minutes later.

So he might get a lucky assist on the second. The third, however, sounds like Deuce’s work.

The two goals bring Dempsey’s all-competition goal total to six in 25 games this season, not bad considering his early adjustment period at White Hate Lane. While he’s not going to come close to the 23 he posted for Fulham last year, the goal rate is right in step with his typical Craven Cottage years, a strong showing given the increased competition for playing time.

MORE: Another late comeback from Manchester United.

Whether today’s performance helps Deuce continue getting regular time remains to be seen. Obviously, it won’t hurt, but it was an FA Cup home tie against a far inferior opponent. Spurs may still end up a 4-4-2 team without a clear spot for Dempsey, but just as he did at Fulham, Dempsey looks intent on forcing his way into the team.

At a minimum, today’s goals should give him a leg up in any Dempsey versus Gylfi Sigurdsson battle.

Later today, we’ll circle back and feature your feedback on that battle (or, “battle,” as some would phrase it).

SEE: All the day’s action in the FA Cup.

Italian soccer federation signs deal with Chinese government

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ROME (AP) The Italian soccer federation has signed a wide-ranging memorandum with the Chinese government to promote soccer between the two countries.

The deal foresees playing the Italian Super Cup or Italian Cup in China within the next three years.

[ MORE: Upsets in EURO qualifying ]

The Italian Super Cup – which pits the Serie A champion against the Italian Cup champion – has already been played in China four times over the last 10 years.

The meeting with China Media Group head Shen Haixiong also focused on TV content and rights, collaboration over developing young Chinese players in Italy and instruction for using the video assistant referee.

Shen was in Rome for the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Italian federation president Gabriele Gravina says, “Soccer has shown once again to be a bridge between different cultures.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

WATCH: Asprilla scores terrific bicycle kick on USL cameo

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Portland Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla has had to spend some time in the USL Championship this season, and the second tier would probably like to see Gio Savarese keep the Colombian in Major League Soccer.

[ REPORT: Liverpool to sell Keita? ]

Asprilla scored twice and added an assists on Saturday night in a defeat of Eric Wynalda’s Las Vegas Lights, and he put up a near picture perfect bicycle kick on the highlight reel.

Watch as he sets himself up, willingly or not, for the endeavor before splashing a shot in the side panel for an amazing aesthetic.

Report: Bayern, BVB ready to buy Keita from Liverpool

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A report claims that Liverpool is ready to admit defeat in the case of Naby Keita.

Keita, 24, was bought from RB Leipzig last season and arrived at Anfield in the summer, but has struggled to find consistent playing time under Jurgen Klopp.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Saief shines for FC Cincinnati ]

Viewed as the missing link between the Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s torrential attack, Keita has not come close to replicating the form that saw his price tag reach $69 million.

Indeed, Team Talk says Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich look prepared to pay around $53 million to bring Keita back to the Bundesliga.

Keita has played 27 matches in all competitions for Liverpool, accumulating 1,388 minutes and just one assist. He had nine goals and seven assists in more than double the minutes one season ago.

According to WhoScored.com, he’s passing the ball better and taking almost a foul less than last season, but almost every other measurable has declined since he moved to England.

I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking Keita would be everything the Reds required after an improved 2017-18, but he’s either being used very poorly or having trouble adjusting to the culture.

It’s early to quit on a player so talented, but maybe Klopp and he just don’t mesh well. But if it isn’t a case of clashing with the club, it may be worth waiting out a player who looked a giant just eight months ago.

EURO qualifying: Hungary stings Croatia, Israel hangs 4 on Austria

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It wasn’t just Germany and the Netherlands staging a tight and entertaining match in EURO 2020 qualifying on Sunday.

[ VIDEO: Saief, Manneh lead FC Cincinnati ]

Hungary 2-1 Croatia

Ante Rebic’s early goal made a “business as usual” statement for the World Cup runners-up, but Hungary can be a handful against any opponents and rallied at home.

Hoffenheim striker Adam Szalai brought the hosts level at halftime, and Mate Patkai gave Hungary a deserved 2-1 win in Budapest.

Coming three days after a loss in Slovakia to start qualifying, it was an early almost-must-win for Marco Rossi’s men.

Israel 4-2 Austria

Marko Arnautovic‘s brace in defeat couldn’t have come with different vibes. His eighth minute marker gave the Austrians a leg up, his 75th minute goal meaning very little with the side having conceded four-straight in between.

China-based striker Eran Zahavi scored a hat trick for Israel, and RB Salzburg star Munas Dabbur scored the fourth goal to keep the hosts within sight of first place Poland.

Austria is winless through two qualifiers.

Elsewhere
Wales 1-0 Slovakia
Cyprus 0-2 Belgium
San Marino 0-2 Scotland
Netherlands 2-3 Germany — RECAP, VIDEO
Northern Ireland 2-1 Belarus
Poland 2-0 Latvia
Slovenia 1-1 Macedonia
Kazakhstan 0-4 Russia