Full strength Spurs keep Dempsey on bench

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At some point, this is no longer news, but since a groin injury obscured things between Clint Dempsey’s last league start (all the way back on December 16) and now, it’s been a bit unclear where the U.S. international falls in Tottenham’s pecking order. Even coming off the bench, there’s still some debate as to where “Deuce” sits on the depth chart, but with Spurs’ return to full strength pushing Dempsey out of André Villas-Boas’s starting XI for today’s match at Queens Park Rangers, there’s little doubt Tottenham’s switch to a 4-4-2 formation has landed the American on the bench.

On New Year’s Day (Spurs’ last league game), Gareth Bale’s suspension opened a spot in Tottenham’s starting lineup, though Dempsey wasn’t given the nod. Instead, Icelander Gylfi Sigurdsson started. That could have been due to Dempsey’s recovery from a groin injury (though he had featured against Sunderland the previous game). It could have also been a reward to Sigurdsson who (like Dempsey) has recovered from a slow start to the season.

At Loftus Road, Villas-Boas has Bale back. More notably, he also has Emmanuel Adebayor, who committed then uncommitted to Togo for this month’s Africa Cup of Nations (latest reports have him going after today’s game). Along with forward Jermain Defoe and winger Aaron Lennon, Villas-Boas has his full complement of attackers available. Thus, both Dempsey and Sigurdsson are on the bench.

We’ve covered this ground before. Just because Dempsey isn’t in the starting XI doesn’t mean he’s not going to get significant time. Spurs are still alive in the FA Cup, and with a former Europa League winner managing the team, you can be certain Tottenham will take their European commitments seriously. They have a home-and-home with Olympique Lyonnais next month.

With two goals off the bench over the last month, Dempsey’s still capable of contributing, but having started in 12 of his 16 league appearances before today’s game, Deuce will have to continue adjusting to a new role. Villas-Boas’s continued use of a 4-4-2 means Dempsey’s most likely role is one of super sub.

Mexico receives FIFA fine for insulting chant

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FIFA handed a $10,400 fine down to Mexico on Wednesday for “discriminatory and insulting chants” that occurred during El Tri’s 1-0 victory over Germany.

[ MORE: Spain tops Iran after overruled goal ]

The FIFA disciplinary committee reportedly levied the fine to Mexico for directing a derogatory chant towards German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) with a fine of CHF 10,000 for the misconduct of a group of Mexican fans (cf. art. 67 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code) in relation to discriminatory and insulting chants during the first half of the 2018 FIFA World Cup match played between Germany and Mexico,” FIFA declared in a press release.

The Mexican Football Federation has aimed to eliminate an ongoing epidemic of homophobic chants that supporters have screamed during goal kicks for some time.

El Tri was sanctioned 12 times during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for those chants.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.