Clint Dempsey moved from Fulham to London rivals Tottenham last summer, for a fee believed to be in the £6 million range. With the USA international on board, Spurs rallied to their highest ever points total in the Premier League, however still missed out on a top-four finish. With this in mind, was Dempsey's first campaign at White Hart Lane a success or not?

One of the standout features of Dempsey's play at Fulham was his ability to find the back of the net on regular occasion from an attacking midfield position or from wide. For all money it looked like Dempsey would move to Liverpool, with the exchange betting now showing that a switch to Anfield was on the cards. However, with the Reds arguing over a transfer fee, Spurs nipped in to pip their rivals to the attacker's signature, and make the most of his versatility.

Although Dempsey did not return as many goals last term as in previous campaigns with Fulham, his seven Premier League strikes came in as a benefit to a side that largely relied on Gareth Bale to hit the back of the net. The American scored in both games against Manchester United to see Spurs take four points off the eventual champions, and also contributed other important strikes both in the Premier League and in Europe. Spurs fans will hope that Dempsey can look to make it into double figures next season.

His versatility was also a key aspect for Spurs, with Andre Villas-Boas able to call on Dempsey to play on either flank or through the middle as a second striker if needed. With Aaron Lennon injured for parts of the campaign, Gylfi Sigurdsson taking time to find his feet and Lewis Holtby only joining in January, Dempsey's presence was one that was largely positive for Spurs. Dempsey has also added a direct approach and energy to the Tottenham attack, while the American also offers guile and good technique.

Although his debut season for Spurs will not go down as one of his career best, the signs are there that Dempsey can be a critical man in Tottenham's attempts to qualify for the Champions League next season.

Stoke City, with it's pair of Americans grabbing the attention of at least of few of their countrymen across the pond, head to Loftus Road on Saturday to battle QPR in a crucial game for both sides. Stoke's recent form leave them perilously close to the drop zone in 16th, just three points clear of 18th place Wigan. Tony Pulis is under pressure, Stoke's brutal style of play is starting to wear thin with frantic supporters, and only a win against Harry Redknapp's club will do anything to lighten the load.

The most pressing problem is that Stoke hardly score these days, and they've hardly scored away from the Britannia all year. Hence the word at Betfair, with Stoke a 3.65 wager to win. It wouldn't be in character for Pulis to let his charges loose against QPR, even if getting a goal that can bring three points is crucial. On the other side, Harry Redknapp will have every reason to take the game to Stoke at home in London. QPR's situation is dire with the club 10 points adrift of safety, and only a rampant run of form down the stretch of the season will keep the Hoops up for another year in the Premier League.

Of Stoke's American contingent, only the trusted Geoff Cameron will be expected to play a part. Whether due to lack of fitness or because of his liabilities on the defensive side of the ball, Tony Pulis hasn't yet seen fit to give former FC Dallas man Shea much of a look. This is the case enough though Stoke is without winger Matthew Etherington due to injury. Shea's move to Stoke remains a bit of a head-scratcher for that reason; if Pulis had no intention of using Shea (and his attacking abilities) this season, the transfer during the dying hours of the January window makes little sense. Nothing else has worked for Stoke lately--would it be so wrong to give the young American with the funny hair a run out against one of the league's worst teams?


The chances of a set piece goal, for either side, are notable. Stoke is both the league leader in percentage of total goals scored from set pieces (57%) and conceded (46%). QPR's Loic Remy is hot, with goals in four of his last six Premier League appearances. Stoke City has just five points in 2013, and just one in their last seven games. Stoke hasn't picked up a point away from home in their last six trips. QPR has scored first a league low nine times this season, but when they do, they're good at protecting a lead.


Considering Stoke's trouble putting the ball in the net and QPR's greater comfort at home, Harry Redknapp's side looks like a winner, 1-0.

MLS presents a veritable smorgasbord of tasty match-ups this weekend as part of a day-long celebration of the league's best rivalries. On Saturday alone, rivals clash across a 10-hour block, starting with the Red Bulls v. D.C. United at Red Bull Arena and climaxing with Seattle v. Portland from a packed house in Seattle. NBC Sports will provide live look-ins at several games via a "whiparound" show called "The Breakaway."

Really, for those into who use things like Unibet to do something by the name of online betting, the crush of action, action, action is like a dream wrapped inside a fantasy covered in pixie dust. Even if you're not the type, nonstop American soccer action could be the high point of your month. I know it will be of mine. Do not judge my life.

But which game is the best of the lot from a competitive standpoint? Which game pits the most even teams against one another while also bringing the added element of heated (or, in some cases, lukewarm) rivalry? Which game rises above its rivals to become the rivalry of rivals? Ahem.

From my perspective, New York hosting D.C. United holds the most potential. Obviously the rivalry (and outside of Cascadia, it might be the league's fiercest) is part of what makes the game potential firecracker, but the talent on the field and the quality of the team's overall puts it above the rest of the slate. D.C. United comes in on the back of their first win of the season, a 1-0 defeat of Real Salt Lake in Washington. That win brought Ben Olsen's team their first points of the young season--they opened the campaign with a loss in Houston, a place they never win.

New York opens their home schedule after a West Coast trip they'd probably rather forget. Up two goals on the Timbers in their first game of the year, they left with only a point after failing to hold the lead. Last week in San Jose, it happened again--only this time, they took home no points after Roy Miller's epic meltdown in the final ten minutes (in less time than it takes to boil an egg, Miller lost his mark on the back post for the equalizer, committed a handball offense in the box, then encroached during the penalty so blatantly that it led to Chris Wondolowski getting a second chance to convert after his first show was saved--he did).

So one team is building off a win, while the other is looking to recover from a disastrous result. Let's see how this shakes out.

Key Players:

Thierry Henry (Red Bulls) - Yes, pointing to Henry is hardly difficult analysis, but the Frenchman sets the tone for the Red Bulls. If he comes out surly and disinterested, it could submarine New York's efforts from the start. Watch Henry closely; his body language tells half the story. The other half is in the lack of it when the mistakes start to flow. If he doesn't care, it will be up to Fabian Espindola and others to make goals happen.

Dwayne DeRosario (D.C. United) - Another obvious selection. But this one is different, mostly because DeRosario has yet to play in 2013 after a suspension stemming from a preseason headbutt. DeRo shouldn't have much trouble integrating to the team, and his presence will undoubtedly help wing threats Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon.

Key Questions:

How good is United's defense?

Last week's performance gives United plenty of confidence heading into Red Bull Arena, but New York presents a stiffer challenge than Real Salt Lake. The Red Bulls should have Juninho Pernambucano back in their lineup after the Brazilian missed a week through injury, so United's defenders will have to careful not to give up any fouls in the general vicinity of their own goal. And by that, I mean within 30 yards. This means you, Perry Kitchen.

The Red Bull response

It's worth mentioning again--the Red Bulls loss to the Earthquakes on Sunday has the potential to derail their season before it gets started. United will certainly know that, and would be happy to send their chief rival spiraling into the abyss. New York can prove a lot to the league and themselves if they put in a god showing. Mike Petke can go a long way towards proving he's a different kind of Red Bulls coach.

Will Roy Miller start?

Because the boos. Oh the boos.


It's hard to picture the Red Bulls being fully recovered after the two trips out west in two weeks and the loss in San Jose, but they will be at home. United's strength lies in their defensive commitment and the threat of DeRosario and Pontius. New York has more weapons, and that's even if Thierry Henry isn't fully engaged., that's enough. New York 2-1 United.

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