Busy Dempsey continues to make his mark with Fulham.
By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
(Friday, January 8, 2010) -- United States midfielder Clint Dempsey has been a busy man and proving to be one of the better players for Fulham of the English Premier League.
In a Tuesday road match at Britannia Stadium, Dempsey came off the bench to contribute a goal and an assist, but it wasn't enough to help the Cottagers to erase a three-goal deficit an a 3-2 loss to Stoke City.
Fulham, playing a number of reserves, fell behind 3-0 by halftime, but came back in the second half.
Dempsey came on in the 54th minute and almost immediately provided a spark. In the 61st minute, he played the ball across the 18-yard line to an open Damien Duff for a left-footed shot that deflected off Ryan Shawcross and past Stoke goalkeeper Steve Simonsen.
In the 85th minute, Dempsey played give-and-go with Andy Johnson, whose return flick allowed Dempsey to use his first touch to drive a dipping volley from 35 yards that left Simonsen helpless.
On Saturday, Clint Dempsey went 90 minutes when Fulham was pressed to the limit before defeating visiting Swindon Town of the third-division League One 1-0 in an FA Cup third-round meeting at Craven Cottage. Swindon ousthot Fulham 12-11, 5-3 on frame, but the Cottagers prevailed on Bobby Zamora's tally in the 16th minute.
Dempsey started his busy streak by playing in three matches over six days, starting with a 3-2 road victory over FC Basel of Switzerland.
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson had hoped to rest Dempsey, but inserted him in the 70th minute with Fulham ahead 2-1 to help hold the lead against a team that had not been beaten at home this season.
Dempsey aided the third Fulham goal and the Cottagers barely held on to win.
On December 26, Fulham drew 0-0 with Tottenham Hotspur in a match that featured some amazing goalkeeping from Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes. Twice, Gomes denied Dempsey with sensational saves, while Dempsey once beat the Brazilian, but his shot hit the crossbar.
Two days later, Dempsey again went the distance in a 2-1 losing effort at Chelsea in a close game decided on a Chris Smalling own goal in the 75th minute.
On Saturday, U.S. keeper Brad Guzan led Aston Villa to a 3-1 triumph over Blackburn Rovers, an unusual FA Cup meeting of Premier League rivals as early as the third round.
With Guzan's U.S. teammate Brad Friedel watching from the Villa bench, Guzan played his third Cup match in a row and made three saves, including stopping a penalty kick by David Dunn in the 32nd minute.
Blackburn played a man short after El-Hadji Diouf was sent off in the 42nd minute.
In Premier league matches, Friedel suffered a pair of losses. On December 27, he made seven saves, including stretching fully to deny Andrey Arshavin, but Villa fell 3-0 at Arsenal. Two days later, Spanish international Fernando Torres drilled a low shot past Friedel three minutes into injury time to allow Liverpool to claim a 1-0 road win.
U.S. keeper Tim Howard made five saves for host Everton, which defeated Carlisle United of League One 3-1 in an FA Cup third-round match at Goodison Park.
Everton needed a goal in the 82nd minute and in penalty kick in stoppage time to defeat its stubborn opponent. Carlisle was given a standing ovation by the Everton fans after the final whistle.
Prior to that outing, Everton had three matches in six days, though Howard was held out of a 1-0 Europa League home loss to BATE Borisov of Belarus. With a spot in the final 32 already achieved, Everton fielded a team with mostly reserves.
On December 26, Howard made four saves as Everton came from behind, using Marouane Fellaini's goal in the 85th minute to draw with host Sunderland 1-1 at the Stadium of Light.
Two days later, Howard posted a clean sheet in a 2-0 home victory over Burnley. Among Howard's seven saves were several gems and Everton won on goals from James Vaughan in the 83rd minute and Steve Pienaar in stoppage time.
American striker Mike Grella didn't play, but had a good view from the Leeds United bench of the club's stunning 1-0 FA Cup upset of Premier League power Manchester United. Leeds, which leads League One, was helped by the fact that Manchester fielded mostly reserves.
In another FA Cup match between Premiership clubs, U.S. striker Jozy Altidore came on in the 79th minute for Hull City, which was embarrassed by Wigan Athletic 4-1.
Both Hull and Wigan are fighting to avoid relegation from the Premier League and have the worst defensive records in the EPL.
On December 29, Altidore started and went 55 minutes as Hull came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Bolton Wanderers behind a pair of Steven Hunt goals.
Two days prior, Altidore played 83 minutes in a 3-1 loss to Manchester United.
American Marcus Hahnemann has clearly assumed the starting goalkeeping role for Wolverhampton, but Wolves dropped their last two matches by shutout.
At Anfield, visiting Wolves dropped a 2-0 decision to host Liverpool December 26. Hahnemann kept Wolves in the match with seven saves, including a beauty on a close-in shot from Glen Johnson and a driven free kick from Fabio Aurelio.
After Wolves' Stephen Ward was sent off in the 53rd minute, Liverpool soon scored its two goals eight minutes apart.
Two days later, Carlos Tevez scored twice and visiting Manchester City blanked Wolves 3-0. Hahnemann was shown a yellow card in the 71st minute.
On December 26, U.S. defender Jonathan Spector came off the West Ham United bench in the 19th minute to replace injured Herita Nkongolo Ilunga in what turned out to be a 2-0 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur.
Two days later, Spector didn't play when relegation-challenged West Ham downed Portsmouth 2-0.
In the second-tier League Championship, U.S. defender Jay DeMerit went the distance twice for Watford, which drew 0-0 with Nottingham Forest and 2-2 with Bristol City, thanks to a goal in stoppage time.
American defender Frank Simek went the distance for Sheffield Wednesday in a 2-2 draw with Newcastle United and 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace.
American forward Jemal Johnson dressed, but did not play for MK Dons, who fell 2-1 to Burnley.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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