Dempsey and Fulham Reach Europa League Final

Fulham v Hamburg SV UEFA Europa League 29/04/10

England have their European finalist, and it’s not one of their traditional powerhouses (Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool).  London-based Fulham, currently a mid-table club in the English Premier League, showed remarkable quality in their Europa League semifinal victory over Germany’s Hamburg.

The Londoners needed to win the second match after the first ended 0-0. The Germans would have been content with a tie, as yesterday’s game was played at Fulham’s Craven Cottage.

Both clubs were actively seeking a goal, but it was Hamburg who struck first, with Mladen Petrić slamming home a swerving free kick that surely had to break at least one Newtonian law.  Fulham, though, were not deterred, and while it took them 54 minutes to find their own goal, they finally equalized when midfielder Danny Murphy and his 40 yard pass found compatriot Simon Davies, who twice popped the ball over his defender’s outstretched legs before beating the keeper.  With Hamburg holding a vital away goal, Fulham needed one more tally to justify plane tickets to the final.  Zoltan Gera was up to the task, collecting a corner and deftly flicking past the keeper.

The Germans galvanized their attack over the final 15 minutes but were unable to find a second goal.  The result is terribly disappointing for the Germans – the final, on August 13th against Atlético Madrid, will be played in Hamburg’s stadium.

American Performance

Clint Dempsey, as has been the case for most of the spring, came on as a sub (57th) and lined up as a striker. Earlier in the season he split time between outside midfield and forward, but injuries to Fulham’s other attacking options have caused him to see more time .

While Dempsey may not have been instrumental to either Fulham goal, he was involved in both. Immediately before Murphy connected with Davies, Dempsey found Murphy in plenty of space, giving Fulham’s captain time to pick out his man.  The second goal came courtesy of a corner that Dempsey helped earn.

The Texan wasn’t inactive after the goals either. He pressured Hamburg’s defenders and managed to force a turnover or two, helping Fulham run off precious seconds. In stoppage time he even caused their goalkeeper to earn a yellow card. The goalkeeper had come forward in a last, desperate attempt to score, but a cleared attack left the two in a footrace, with the ball and an open net the reward. The keeper couldn’t keep up and had no choice but to foul the American. It was rather interesting that he only received a yellow; this type of foul, one that interferes with a clear scoring opportunity, is normally a red.

National Team Implications

If Charlie Davies is unable to complete a miraculous comeback, Dempsey will likely step-in as Jozy Altidore’s strike partner.  Dempsey is no stranger to international forward duty, but he spent most 2009 at right midfield.

The talent drop-off from Dempsey to his replacement (Stuart Holden, Benny Feilhaber, or Alejandro Bedoya) is larger than that of Davies to Dempsey.  Plus, if Davies is healthy, Dempsey can start on the right and move up top late in a match, a tactic Bob Bradley has previously used to great effect.

Injury Update

Dempsey does seem recovered from the thigh injury he picked up earlier this month, but he was wearing a cast on his right hand last night.  It didn’t seem to hurt his play, though.

2 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Gringo Primal says:

    I can’t remember, who and how did Dempsey score against in 06?

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