Full night’s timeline: How Clint Dempsey’s first match in Seattle played out

6 Comments

Not that a Seattle-Portland contest needs ginning up; it’s the top rivalry in Major League Soccer by a long, long way.

Still, it was Clint Dempsey’s home debut, adding further theater to the sold-out night at CenturyLink Field, where the league’s second largest crowd ever for a stand-alone match was there to watch. Here’s a quick timeline of how things went for Dempsey, now the league’s highest paid man:

Pre-match: ESPN’s Alexi Lalas talks to Dempsey just before warm-ups, asking the U.S. captain if he’s nervous? Looking calm as a man waiting for the bait and tackle shop to open on some sleepy Wednesday morning, Dempsey says: “I wouldn’t say nervous, I’m excited. Any time you get a chance to play before in front of 66,000 67,000 fans, it’s a dream come true. That’s what you dream about as a little kid.”

He also tells Lalas that he’s not worried about anyone who says the ol’ career is moving the wrong way with a move back to MLS. Dempsey says he’s doing what’s best for his family. And you can tell the man means it. So there.

Lineups: Dempsey is operating as a second striker, tucked behind Eddie Johnson in a fairly standard 4-4-2. We still do not know how Sounders’ manager Sigi Schmid will arrange things once Obafemi Martins is healthy, because the club’s other DP striker remains injured.

2nd minute: Dempsey’s first meaningful touch. The crowd gasps audibly. (It’s not like the guy is a sorcerer; he’s not going to spin magic with every touch, guys.)

8th minute: Dempsey’s free kick from shooting range goes well high and wide. He has hit some gorgeous dead balls before. In fact, Dempsey’s 23rd goal back in that breakout 2011-12 season for Fulham, also his milepost 50th career Premier League goal, was a free kick special.

25th minute: The game is fast, and Dempsey is finding his touches – although perhaps a little too far from goal. He is arriving into pockets 40-or-so yards from goal. At the other end, Portland is getting the better chances.  Uh, they know this is Dempsey’s night, right?

26th minute: Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts spills a simple cross. Dempsey nearly gets chopped in half as he charges in for the rebound. It’s a tough tackle, but probably fair. And they say the Premier League is physical!

(MORE: Seattle takes huge Cascadia Cup match, 1-0)

35th minute: The stats show each team with three shots. Well, phooey on stats; Only some good work from Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and the goal post is keeping Portland off the board.

Halftime: Dempsey’s heavy touch on a burst through the middle in the 36th was his best chance. Ricketts, who is roughly the size of a snow cone stand that Dempsey would have visited as a kid back in East Texas, got in the way of that one.

Plus, Dempsey does not look 100 percent comfortable on the artificial surface. No surprise there; he hated the stuff going back to his days in New England. In all honesty, though, Eddie Johnson’s blonde ‘do is probably just as distracting as the turf.

60th minute: Johnson helps make sure Dempsey’s home debut is not bust, beating Ricketts with a glancing header off Mauro Rosales’ sharp free kick delivery. Dempsey, by the way, once drove three-plus hours as a high school kid to train with FC Dallas; Johnson was an FCD man then, hence the pair’s still-strong friendship.

69th minute: Portland’s defense looks increasingly rickety. Dempsey put Lamar Neagle through with a well-weighted ball, almost gets onto a corner kick and then tries a flying kung fu maneuver near goal, all within about 90 seconds.

The big adjustment: Shalrie Joseph was subtracted shortly after the break for the far more attack-minded Mauro Rosales, and it all changed or Seattle. With Rosales creating from wide areas, Dempsey was able to play closer to goal, and closer to Johnson, causing problems for the Portland center backs who had been way too comfortable before Schmid’s alterations.

80th minute: Why, that sly fox! Dempsey dashes across the middle and, from about 30 yards, unleashing an unexpected left-footer with no wind-up whatsoever. Ricketts does quite well stretch and push the low shot just wide. It is Dempsey’s closest brush with scoring Sunday.

Final whistle: Not bad from Dempsey, although no bottom-line production. Which is fine, so long as Seattle is winning. What the U.S. captain told Lalas post-game: “It felt good. I got some good touches. Got some looks on goal. Most important, we got three points, so I’m happy about that.

And on the rave green atmosphere of CenturyLink? “Good atmosphere,” he said. “Some tackles flying in. A little bit reckless I thought. But at the end of the day, we showed a lot of character. Like I said, we got three points.”

Video: Modric, Milner show off in training ahead of UCL final

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Image
Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League final hasn’t even kicked off yet, and Liverpool and Real Madrid are already trying to show each other up with some gorgeous golazos.

[ MORE: Everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s UCL final ]

Both sides had their final training sessions on Friday, and there were several unforgettable moment for each club.

We start with Real, who even got manager Zinedine Zidane involved in a crossing and finishing drill with some of his players.

This is where Luka Modric’s stunning volley came into play (below).

Meanwhile, in an inter-squad scrimmage amongst Liverpool’s team, James Milner unleashed this brilliant curling effort into the top corner (below).

LIVE: Aston Villa, Fulham battle for Premier League promotion

Twitter/@ArndTheGrnds
Leave a comment

The task is quite simple for the two sides competing at Wembley Stadium on Saturday; win and you’re back in the Premier League.

Aston Villa and Fulham will battle it out for the third and final promotion spot into the PL (12 p.m. ET) after boasting tremendous 2017/18 campaigns.

LIVE UPDATES FOR THE PLAYOFF FINAL 

For both clubs, there is a significance about restoring their role as a PL club, with Fulham last competing in the top flight four seasons ago and Villa two seasons removed.


Aston Villa: Johnstone; Chester, Snodgrass, Grealish, Hourihane, Jedinak, Hutton, Terry, Elmohamady, Adomah, Grabban. Bench: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn.

Fulham: Bettenelli; Fredericks, Sessegnon, Odoi, McDonald, Johansen, Cairney, Ream, Targett, Mitrovic, Kamara. Bench: Button, Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas.

Cream of the crop: Ranking all 23 current MLS managers

Twitter/@MLS
Leave a comment

When it comes to “who’s the best?” arguments, they usually encompass which team or player has earned the right to call themselves king.

[ MORE: Chicharito says Mexican team always feels welcome in U.S. ]

Recently though, conversations over social media had us thinking about Major League Soccer, and more specifically, the managerial side of the game.

Household names like Gerardo Martino and Bob Bradley are surely considered to be among the best of the best, and that got us here at Pro Soccer Talk listing the all the potential candidates.

We’re ranking all 23 current MLS managers, based on past performance (wins/losses), longevity at their club and ability to construct a high-caliber roster.


23. Ben Olsen — D.C. United

Olsen’s value to D.C. as both a player and manager cannot go unstated, but his struggles in the latter department have been mounting for years now. Outside of an Open Cup win in 2013, Olsen has been quite underwhelming given the team’s history.

22. Anthony Hudson — Colorado Rapids

It was a tough situation to come into, but some of the player moves that Hudson made in his first season were just mind-boggling.

21. Remi Garde — Montreal Impact

Wholesale changes could be coming at the Impact sooner rather than later, and Garde’s early difficulties make you wonder how long he’ll be around.

20. Mikael Stahre — San Jose Earthquakes 

The Earthquakes have made a conscious effort to get younger, so Stahre deserves some more time to get acquainted.

19. Adrian Heath — Minnesota United

It’s been a tough go in Minnesota for Heath, particularly in the injury department. However, his struggles seem to carry with him throughout MLS, whether it was previously in Orlando or currently with the Loons.

18. Jim Curtin — Philadelphia Union

The club’s unwillingness to spend has really crippled Curtin, who deserves to be higher on this list, but there are simply too many quality coaches in the league right now.

17. Veljko Paunovic — Chicago Fire

Since arriving in the U.S., Paunovic has gone heavy with high-profile moves, whether that be Nemanja Nikolic or trading for Dax McCarty. He’s had his shares of ups and downs, so we’ll have to monitor if he gets over some of the humps this season.

16. Brad Friedel — New England Revolution

Friedel’s first season in New England is probably going about as well as he would have hoped for. After getting situated with Lee Nguyen, Friedel has seemed to have brought a real presence that has allowed players like Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury to thrive.

15. Giovanni Savarese — Portland Timbers

In a small sample size, Savarese has essentially picked up where Caleb Porter left off with a talented Timbers squad. Time will tell how well he can sustain success in MLS.

14. Mike Petke — Real Salt Lake

RSL boasts one of the best, young squads in MLS with its academy continuing to be a driving force, but Petke has had his share of struggles handling some of the team’s well-known players.

13. Jason Kreis — Orlando City

He has an MLS Cup, so yes, there is a legitimate argument to have him higher. However, his time in New York was one of a nightmare, although not entirely unexpected for an expansion side. That carried over in Orlando until this season, so perhaps a sustained run in 2018 could boost his stock once again.

12. Sigi Schmid — LA Galaxy

Schmid has been stuck with a lot of the holdovers from the previous Galaxy regime, but he has to figure things out very soon because there is a clear gap between the top six and the rest of the Western Conference field at the moment.

11. Wilmer Cabrera — Houston Dynamo

Cabrera has erased a lot of the aftertaste from his time at Chivas USA, and 2018 has been even more impressive given the fact that he and his squad lost Erick “Cubo” Torres during the offseason.

10. Oscar Pareja — FC Dallas

Last season’s second half struggles were likely an anomaly for Pareja and Dallas. He continues to develop talented players through the academy pipeline, which is why Dallas will be in contention in the West once again this season.

9. Patrick Vieira — New York City FC

The Frenchman has brought stability to the Bronx since arriving in 2016, and despite the team’s lack of playoff success, NYCFC has built a strong roster that is honestly one of the most entertaining to watch when clicking on all cylinders.

8. Carl Robinson — Vancouver Whitecaps

His record is dead even across the board 70-49-70 since taking over the Whitecaps, but Robinson has helped his side make the playoffs in three of four seasons, while also hoisting a Canadian Championship.

7. Brian Schmetzer — Seattle Sounders

Consecutive trips to MLS Cup, including one title, is no small feat. Schmetzer may very well be the most-underrated coach in MLS.

6. Greg Vanney — Toronto FC

2018 hasn’t been ideal for Vanney and TFC, but he helped construct one of the best teams in league history, and when healthy, they are still capable of living up to that billing.

5. Gregg Berhalter — Columbus Crew

Despite some of the off-field turmoil surrounding the Crew, Berhalter has instilled a winning culture, and this season might be his best job yet as a manager.

4. Peter Vermes — Sporting KC

There’s a reason why Vermes is the longest-tenured manager in MLS. The club has qualified for the postseason in seven straight seasons under Vermes, including an MLS Cup win in 2013.

3. Bob Bradley — Los Angeles FC

Bradley’s journey back to MLS came with criticism based on his time outside the states, but it’s very clear he knows what he’s doing in the U.S.. LA FC is following in the footsteps of Atlanta from a season ago, which is a scary thought.

2. Gerardo “Tata” Martino — Atlanta United

Martino’s already-impressive reputation has only increased since arriving in Atlanta last year. All the credit cannot solely go to Martino, but much of the team’s success in less than two seasons can go to the Argentine.

1. Jesse Marsch — New York Red Bulls

It’s easy to argue for some of the names other than Marsch at number one, but his system with the Red Bulls has become iconic. The club doesn’t overspend on players, and Marsch manages to get the most out of his Homegrowns and other young squad members.

Workers to fix automation issues on Atlanta stadium’s roof

AP Photo/Paul Newberry
Leave a comment

ATLANTA (AP) Workers will begin the final construction phase of Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s tricky retractable roof on Tuesday, nine months after the facility opened.

The $1.5 billion stadium will be open in good weather for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United games. Automation problems kept the roof closed for most of the stadium’s first year.

Beginning Tuesday, the roof will remain in a locked open position for 10 days, including June 2, when Atlanta United plays the Philadelphia Union.

The management group of Arthur Blank, who owns the Falcons and Atlanta United, says the final commissioning work to complete the automation will last several weeks.

When work is completed, the roof is expected to close or open in as few as 12 minutes.

“The complexity of the design and our heavy events schedule has made it take longer than we had hoped, but great things take time and we’re happy to see the finish line,” Steve Cannon, CEO of Blank’s management group, said in a statement.

The stadium will be host to the 2019 Super Bowl. The NFL prefers for the roof to be open for the Super Bowl, weather permitting.

The roof has been closed for most major events at the new stadium, including the Southeastern Conference championship game, Peach Bowl and College Football Playoff national championship game.

For the Falcons’ first season in their new home, the roof was open only for the first home regular-season game against Green Bay.

Falcons CEO Rich McKay said on Jan. 24 the plan was to have more games played with the roof “fully operational.”

“Fully operational means you will see us go to much more of an open configuration as we designed at the beginning,” McKay said. “When it’s ready to go, we’ll be open depending on weather.”

Ongoing work on the roof delayed the 2017 opening of the stadium by about a month. Atlanta United used Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium as its temporary home for the inaugural season in 2017 before moving to the new stadium.

The stadium will host the men’s NCAA Final Four in 2020.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL