19
Jul

Seattle Sounders made Xander Bailey’s wish come true and it’s beautiful

Xander Bailey had his Make-A-Wish dream come true in a big way on Saturday — and on his birthday, no less. The 19-year-old from West Virginia has been dealing with cystic fibrosis since he was a baby while also playing soccer for most of his life.

His dream? Meet his favorite soccer player, Seattle Sounders star Clint Dempsey.

His reality? Not only did Xander meet Dempsey, but he signed a contract with the Sounders, trained with the team and even spoke with the media. The Sounders pulled out all the stops.

But it didn’t stop there. As Seattle geared up for a pre-season friendly against Tottenham Hotspur, Xander was named to their active roster and started against the English club.

Hey, Brad Friedel, maybe give the kid a break and let that one slip through?

Even the fans got involved, creating a banner for their club’s newest signing. 

What an unbelievable few days for Xander and his family. Bravo, Seattle. Bravo.

19
Jul

Clint Dempsey earns spot on FIFA 15 Cover

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Seattle forward Clint Dempsey returned from the World Cup to find out he had landed another honor: a place on the cover of FIFA 2015.

Dempsey is the first American player to land on the cover of the game since Landon Donovan in 2011. He will share the duties with Lionel Messi when the game hits the shelves in September.

"It’s crazy," Dempsey said in a phone interview on Friday. "It’s really cool. I was a fan of the game growing up, playing with my friends. Going from playing the game with my friends to being able to play with my own player in the game and now being on the cover, it’s something that’s pretty special. It’s an honor."

It is also a sign of Dempsey’s cultural relevance in a World Cup year and the increasing influence of MLS on the whole. The popularity of the game — and the presence of the U.S. captain on the cover of it — offers yet another entry point for emerging fans. If Dempsey’s presence prompts more players to opt for MLS sides instead of Barcelona or Real Madrid, then it is exactly the sort of development that can help the league moving forward.

Those broader concerns matter in the long term for a league still seeking to expand its foothold among the general population, but the cachet afforded by Dempsey’s place on the cover reaps immediate benefits, too.  

"I’m super excited that Clint’s on the cover," Seattle defender DeAndre Yedlin said. "I think the fans not only in Seattle, but throughout America will really like it and appreciate because Clint is such a familiar face in soccer, especially in America. I think everybody’s really going to like it. I’m excited to see the response."

Dempsey dons his Sounders FC alternate jersey on the XBox version of the cover (Seattle has the Xbox logo on the front of its kits) and wears his international jersey on the PS4 cover.

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Photos courtesy of EA Sports

19
Jun

Rip Hamilton on a mission to convince Clint Dempsey to wear a face mask

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NBA star Rip Hamilton is on a mission to Brazil.

His goal is to convince Clint Dempsey to wear the plastic face mask to protect his broken nose.

He even posted a picture with a call out to Dempsey:

"On my way to Brazil to watch @clint_dempsey and Team USA at World Cup . @clint_dempsey if u need to borrow my mask I’m bringing them in my carry on bag.#MaskChangedMyCareer #TeamUSA #WorldCup#BrandJordan #BrazilPack #HugeFanOfSoccer #holdat”

Hamilton started wearing a mask in 2002 and turned it into a fashion accessory; he continued to wear one throughout his career.

Maybe Dempsey, who has so far avoided the plastic shield, would be more inclined if it got the hockey goalie mask treatment?

(h/t SB Nation)

Image courtesy of Getty.

15
May

World Cup stickers: Then-and-now photos of stars from 2006-2014

The fine folks over at Eurosport did some digging and came up with some of the best old-school Panini sticker cards of stars at the World Cup. Without further ado, here are some of our favorite before-and-after looks:image

Look at that! Even the dashing Cristiano Ronaldo went through an awkward phase. It looks like the sunshine of Madrid has treated the Portuguese quite nicely over the years. Not only did he pick up a tan, he also picked up another earring!imageThe 2006 edition of Clint Dempsey would fit right in where the 2014 edition plies his footballing trade professionally: Seattle, a.k.a. the grunge capital of the world.

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Look at little Lionel Messi. Eight years of tirelessly running around melted that baby fat from 2006 right off.

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23
Apr

Jermaine Jones gets ultimate ‘Murica knee tattoo

In case you weren’t sure, Jermaine Jones loves the United States of America a lot. So much so that the former Schalke 04 mdifielder got this red, white and blue (and probably very painful) tattoo on his knee:

Jones isn’t the only United States men’s national team player that’s had his American pride inked on his body. Terrence Boyd got this bad boy about a year ago, showing off his commitment to the stars and stripes:

Other players, like Clint Dempsey and John Brooks, display their USA pride by representing their home towns on their skin:

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Dempsey will always be a Texas boy at heart. (Image: The Denim Kit)

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Brooks has Germany (where he was born) on one elbow, and Illinois (his father’s home state) on the other. This was well before his ill-advised gigantic back tattoo that got him benched (Image: Men in Blazers).

It’s probably a safe bet that there will be a few more USA players tatted up after this summer’s World Cup in Brazil — nothing like a bit of body art to commemorate a special event.

5
Mar

USA fail to impress in 2-0 exhibition loss to Ukraine

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The United States men’s national team slumped to the occasion in their 2-0 loss to Ukraine in a friendly marred by circumstances on Wednesday. Goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Devic dealt Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad a harsh blow in a wholly deserved loss. It was the final game in which Klinsmann had his European-based players at his disposal before convening his World Cup camp in mid-May, and he cannot have been pleased with what he saw.

"This game helped us a lot to see where individual players are, collectively where we stand with this group of players," Klinsmann said on ESPN after the match. "Obviously we had to form a couple of new things there, starting from the back line — and you could see that, that they never played together that much."

His motley USA side, comprised of a few regulars and a slew of players on the bubble, were outsmarted by a cunning Ukrainian side. Knowing full-well where the Americans were weak, Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka tore their flanks to shreds while the high defensive line was pelted with through balls.

The tentative American defense let the Ukrainians stroll through its line several times early on. In the 12th minute, a simple ball over the top caught the central defensive pairing of Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks well out of position. That put Denys Harmash through on Tim Howard’s goal by himself. The American goalkeeper made a fine stop on his attempt, but Harmash coolly collected the rebound and laid it wide for Yarmolenko for him to pass the ball into the net.

Just a few minutes later, the Americans were caught out again on a clever play off a Ukrainian corner, but they were saved by a possibly erroneous offside call that time – Alejandro Bedoya actually appeared to keep the play onside. Sloppy and unimaginative in possession, the Yanks produced just two attacks of note in the entire first half. On the first, goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov alertly picked off the cross; on the second, Edgar Castillo’s cross wasn’t quite right and cleared. And they would give away several more fat chances, which a more incisive opponent might have punished, before the halftime whistle brought a respite.

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16
Jan

Seattle Sounders pick part-time rapper in MLS SuperDraft

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Break out the turntables, Seattle!

In the second round of Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, the Sounders selected Jimmy Ockford out of Louisville, a promising central defender and…  rapper?

Yes, the 21-year-old prospect has built up a solid rap catalog along with his partner Dalton Carroll. The duo, who call themselves “Absolute Pursuit,” have posted ten songs on Soundcloud and amassed more than 6,000 likes on Facebook. Pretty good!

Or…not so good? Their Facebook page lists Asher Roth and Sam Adams among their influences. Hmm.

Of course, it’s no surprise Ockford was drafted by the Sounders, who already employ one part-time rapper:

Let’s hope that Dempsey… er, Deuce, can give Jimmy a few tips before they team up for the inevitable collab album.

Image via Instagram/Jockford