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Perfect time for Dempsey to leave Fulham

Champions League clubs will surely look at Clint Dempsey in the summer.
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Ives Galarcep

Ives Galarcep is a 14-year veteran of the American soccer beat. He created and operates the popular American soccer blog, Soccer By Ives, which was voted Best American Soccer Blog by US Soccer in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Ives was also voted Best Football Writer by SoccerLens in 2010. 
 

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It isn’t often that the goal-scoring heroics of a player become a cause for concern for fans of a team, but you can’t blame Fulham fans in West London if they are starting to fear the worst as Clint Dempsey keeps on scoring goals.

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Dempsey’s record-setting season, which continued on Monday with his game-tying header against Chelsea, is helping the Cottagers put together a late run for a European Cup berth. What his 16 Premier League goals (and 22 goals in all competitions) have also done, is make it more and more likely that this will be Dempsey’s final season for the club that bought him from Major League Soccer more than five years ago.

The rumors have already begun to circulate, linking London clubs Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal all with interest in the US national team star. With each goal that he scores, it becomes more and more likely one of those teams will name the right price to pry him away from Craven Cottage.

Will he go? That depends entirely on whether Dempsey wants to go. While he came out publicly over the weekend stating he would not make a decision until the summer, there is little reason to believe he would return to Fulham next season.

Why? It’s pretty simple.

Dempsey has made no secret of his desire to play UEFA Champions League soccer one day. Truth is, he isn't going to achieve that dream with Fulham. A transfer fee will not only help ease the pain of Fulham losing Dempsey, but also ensures he is going to a team with the resources to help him realize that Champions League dream after two outstanding seasons in London.

"Right now, I'm thinking about Europe and playing in Champions League, and at least experiencing that in my career, being in Champions League," Dempsey told FOX Soccer a year ago. "That's a goal. That's every player's goal. Every player wants to win trophies and play at the highest level possible.

"You want to win things. You want to play Champions League or Europa League."

This season, Dempsey has played like someone hungry for that next step: someone who has played well enough to merit consideration from the world’s best teams. That reality makes signing a new contract with Fulham highly unlikely and impractical. That being the case, if the Cottagers cannot convince Dempsey to sign a new deal, it would be foolish for the club to keep him for one more season and miss out on a sure-fire, eight-figure transfer this summer.

Dempsey nearly made the move a year ago, when Arsenal inquired about his services. After seeing him light up Premier League defenses this year, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Gunners are back in the market for him.

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They will have much more competition this time around though. While Dempsey is 29, his versatility and goal-scoring track record make him the kind of reasonably-priced, low-risk transfer target that managers and sporting directors dream of. He also carries the cache of being the most successful American player on the planet at the moment. That brings with it the sort of marketability you can’t put a price on for top English teams trying to bolster their visibility in the United States.

Could Dempsey wind up leaving England to pursue his Champions League dreams? Paris St. Germain came calling last summer, and Dempsey has stated that he wouldn’t be opposed to a move. PSG will be playing Champions League soccer next year, and the French club has deep pockets to challenge English powers.

Where will Dempsey ultimately wind up? There are still months to go before the European summer transfer window opens; still time for English clubs to secure their Champions League places, and still time for Dempsey to keep breaking records and impressing potential suitors. Dempsey has grown fond of London, and the ideal move for him would see him join one of the London clubs that secure a top four place in the Premier League.

That would help Dempsey realize his Champions League dream: a dream he will have earned with every clutch goal he scores.

USMNT players developing versatility, confidence

When Jurgen Klinsmann puts together his roster for the pre-World Cup Qualifying camp next month, he will have some very versatile options at his disposal, including some players who could be climbing up Klinsmann’s depth chart by gaining experience at multiple positions with their clubs.

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Eric Lichaj has made a resounding return from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six months of action. He has stepped into the Aston Villa starting lineup, and has seen time both at left and right back. He was already regarded as the American fullback of the future before the ankle injury sidelined him. His form for VIlla in recent weeks, will surely help him earn a place on Klinsmann’s roster: especially considering the lack of clear-cut options emerging from MLS to challenge for that position

Danny Williams is another player who has spent his club season, particularly in recent weeks and months, being used in a variety of ways. Williams has played center back and in defensive midfield for German side TSG Hoffenheim. Most recently, Williams played on the left side of Hoffenheim’s diamond midfield, though he spent more time playing central midfielder than as a pure winger.

That experience should help Williams boost his stock in Klinsmann’s eyes, even though Klinsmann used Williams more as a right winger, with an emphasis more on being defensively solid than a true attacking option.

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Lichaj and Williams aren’t the only Americans to see club playing time at a variety of positions. DaMarcus Beasley has played both as a wide forward, winger and even as a fullback for Mexican club Puebla. Tim Ream has become a solid defensensive fixture for Bolton, but has also been used in defensive midfield.

All this experience at varied positions should only help give Klinsmann more options as he tries to mold his best roster when World Cup qualifying commences in June. This could be a reason why he has scheduled a trio of friendlies leading up to the qualifiers. Having those games allow him to try players at different positions and will help the US manager get closer to putting together his strongest possible lineup, and best possible roster.

MLS brings down the hammer

When Major League Soccer issued a trio of retroactive suspensions for bad fouls that were not punished with red cards, it became clear the league wants to clean up the rough play that has led to major injuries. Today, MLS did it again, suspending New England midfielder Shalrie Joseph for a foul on FC Dallas’ Ricardo Villar.

Unlike last week’s suspensions, however, the Joseph suspension was not a clearly deserved one. The foul occurred after Villar stepped in front of Joseph from behind, as Joseph prepared to play a ball. Villar cleared the ball, but was then brought down by Joseph. This wasn’t the case of a player tackling someone from behind, or someone delivering an elbow to the head. It was clumsy, but not worthy of a suspension.

What worked against Joseph in this instance was that Villar was forced to leave the match due to an injury suffered from his challenge.

The message is being sent loud and clear by MLS: avoid bad tackles or risk missing games. It’s too early to tell whether this message is helping improve the quality of play on the field. What MLS must avoid is going overboard with suspensions, which would cause problems of its own.

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