Dempsey scores three goals in Fulham victories; interest from EPL powers grows.
By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
(Tuesday, April 10, 2012) -- Fulham, on the River Thames in West London, has this thing about Americans. For a number of years, Brian McBride won such an indelible place in Fulham fan's hearts, that when he retired, the pub in Craven Cottage Stadium was named after him.
Now, along came Clint Dempsey, who eclipsed McBride's season and career scoring records. The goal he scored last night forced a 1-1 draw with hated neighbor Chelsea, the biggest goal of the year for Fulham and one of three Dempsey scored on the Bank Holiday weekend.
Dempsey's goal against Chelsea came in the 82nd minute of a match played from the opening whistle in a driving rain. For Chelsea, it approached a must-win game. With the draw, the Blues failed to climb into a three-way tie for fourth-place with Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United in the English Premier League, a position that carries a berth in the European Champions League play-in round. With five matches remaining, Chelsea now trails Arsenal by seven points for third place, which carries an automatic Champions League spot.
Meanwhile, Fulham sits in ninth place at 11-12-10 with 43 points, four points behind seventh place. The Cottagers failure to contend for a spot in European competition has led to talk that Fulham will entertain offers for Dempsey, primarily a midfielder, who is in a three-way tie for fourth in the Premier League with 16 goals, trailing behind Robin van Persie of Arsenal (26), Wayne Rooney of Manchester United (22) and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (17), while tied with Newcastle United's Demba Ba and Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge.
Dempsey has 22 goals in all competitions in 2011-12 with three in England's FA Cup and three in Europe's second-tier Europa League. Rumored among his suitors: league powers Arsenal, Man. U. and Tottenham.
This weekend, Dempsey announced he is going to wait until after the season to decide whether to sign a new contract with Fulham. He has a year to go on his present pact and says he is happy at Craven Cottage, but he also says he wants to play in the Champions League and other major competitions. Fulham is faced with the dilemma of finding him a new home or risking his leaving as a free transfer at the end of next season.
"We will see what happens," Dempsey said. "It is one of my best memories of being at Fulham, this season, and I have one more to go. I am talking with the club, but we will have to see what happens in the summer. I want to focus on this season and my football, and other stuff can take care of itself after the season.''
Fulham's game against Chelsea was intense, particularly after Chelsea took the lead on a questionable penalty kick moments before halftime. The Blues went into a defensive shell and held on but, in the late going, Fulham began winning corner kicks and twice narrowly missed the target on headers.
In the 82nd minute, Dempsey broke free of his mark at the back of a pack to catch up with Damien Duff's corner and he rocketed in a long header that glanced off the back of defender Gary Cahill into the net.
"When you've got Clint on the team, you know you have a chance," Fulham captain Danny Murphy told the media. "He's been on an unbelievable run of form. He keeps bailing us out. When the ball goes in the box, he's usually the first on the end of it and he got us out of trouble again."
"Maybe just lucky, one of them things," Dempsey said of his tying tally. "The first 15 minutes of each half, I thought (Chelsea) were the better side, but then the game started to open up. We looked dangerous and toward the end of the game, we played some really good football and created chances."
On Saturday, Dempsey scored a pair and came close to a third goal in a 3-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers. His first goal came off a deadly free kick, the second on a firm header.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, United States goalkeeper Tim Howard followed up on Saturday's four-save performance against Norwich City in a 2-2 draw with a solid, clean-sheet effort in a 4-0 shutout of Sunderland yesterday.
U.S. defender Eric Lichaj played 90 minutes twice for Aston Villa in its 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Saturday and Monday's almost identical 1-1 draw with Stoke City. He received a yellow card against Stoke.
American keeper Brad Guzan was dressed as backup keeper for Villa in both matches.
American keeper Brad Friedel made a pair of saves for Tottenham Hotspur in its surprising 2-1 home loss to Norwich City on Monday. On Saturday, he made three saves and kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw with Sunderland.
U.S. defender Tim Ream played a pair of complete matches for Bolton Wanderers, going the distance in a 2-0 loss to Newcastle United on Monday following Saturday's 3-0 loss to Fulham.
American defender Zak Whitbread has an injured calf and is sidelined for Norwich City.
In the second-division English League Championship, U.S. midfielder Robbie Rogers returned from injury and played the final 14 minutes for Leeds United in a 2-0 loss today to Derby County. He had played the final five minutes in a 2-0 loss to Reading on Friday.
U.S. defender Jonathan Spector has an ailing thigh and is out for Birmingham City.
American midfielder Conor Doyle has an injured hamstring and is unavailable to Derby County.
American defender Daniel Potts has a thigh injury and is sidelined for West Ham United.
U.S. striker Robbie Findley did not dress in either of Nottingham Forest's matches.
In the third-tier League One, American forward Mike Grella finally got on the score-sheet for Bury. He scored the opening goal in a 4-1 victory over Colchester United on Monday.
He did not dress in Saturday's 3-0 loss to Brentford.
American defender Frank Simek went the distance for Carlisle United in a pair of matches, a 0-0 draw with Scunthorpe United on Monday following a 1-1 draw Friday with Wycombe Wanderers.
American midfielder Anton Peterlin did not dress in for either of Walsall's Bank Holiday matches.
In Scotland's Premier League on Saturday, U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu and defender Carlos Bocanegra each went the distance for Glasgow Rangers in a 3-1 triumph over St. Mirren.
Bocanegra received a yellow card.
American midfielder Alejandro Bedoya dressed, but did not play for Rangers.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
Do you have a comment on this story or something to say about soccer in general? Send us a letter.
©Copyright 2012 SoccerTimes.com. All Rights Reserved.