(Monday, January 1, 2007) -- Fulham, which already employs two Americans, is reportedly near adding a third.
Midfielder Clint Dempsey of Major League Soccer's New England Revolution is close to joining his United States World Cup teammates, striker Brian McBride and defender Carlos Bocanegra, on the English Premier League club's roster, the Boston Globe reported.
"Clint's a wide player up front, can play either flank, strong with pace, a good player, good touch," Fulham manager Chris Coleman told the Globe. He has all the attributes to be a good player in the Premier League, is the right age and was in our price range."
According to the Globe story, the West London team has agreed to pay a $2.94 million transfer fee -- a modest sum by Premier League standards -- for the sometimes temperamental American, pending his obtaining a work permit. The Saturday story came on a day when Bocanegra put away a rebound of McBride's blast in the 84th minute to give Fulham a 2-2 road draw with two-time defending champion Chelsea Saturday before 41,926 at Stamford Bridge. That left the Cottagers, who host last-place Watford today, at 6-7-8 and tied for 10th place with Manchester City (7-9-5) with 26 points.
"We've agreed a fee, but it still has to go to the tribunal (to obtain a work permit)," Coleman said. "He's had a few injury problems, so he's just a little bit short there. But it's not like he's coming here to sit on the bench. He's coming because we've bought him to make a big impact."
Dempsey, 23, falls just short of automatic eligibility for a work permit, which requires a foreign player without a passport from a European Union country, to have participated in 75 percent of his national team's "official" matches over the prior two years. For the U.S., this would include last summer's World Cup in Germany, as well as final-round Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup in 2005. The national team must be in the top 75 of world governing body FIFA's rankings with the U.S. currently at No. 31.
Dempsey played in 12 of 19 official matches (63.2 percent) since the beginning of 2005, having been in two of three World Cup games, six of 10 qualifiers and four of six Gold Cup tests. It is believed Fulham's initial application has already been turned down and the club has appealed, where many mitigating factors are considered, such as injuries and how many permits an EPL team has applied for.
"We've been there (at tribunals) before and not won all of them, so we've got to keep our fingers crossed," Coleman said.
Fulham also has another former MLS player on its squad -- midfielder Simon Elliott, a veteran of seven seasons (1998-2005) with the Los Angeles Galaxy and Columbus Crew, and 48 appearances with New Zealand's national team.
Dempsey, playing the right flank, scored a crucial tying goal for the U.S. in its 2-1 World Cup Group E loss to Ghana, a result which sent the Americans home with an 0-2-1 record. It was one of only two U.S. tallies in the tournament.
Dempsey's relationship with New England management and teammates was strained. Dempsey was suspended for two weeks by the Revolution on March 15 for "conduct detrimental to the team," following a scuffle with team defender-midfielder Joe Franchino that left the team captain with a bloody left eye. Franchino, who was not disciplined for the incident, missed several days of a preseason training excursion to Costa Rica with a black eye which was swollen shut.
The U.S. men honored that suspension and dropped Dempsey from its roster for a trip to Germany, a 4-1 loss March 22 before 64,500 in Dortmund.
Bocanegra's goal with six minutes remaining gave Fulham its draw Saturday, the second straight 2-2 tie at home for Chelsea against a foe with two prominent Americans. Last Tuesday, American Marcus Hahnemann was in goal for Reading in a 2-2 affair at Stamford Bridge, though U.S. midfielder Bobby Convey continued to be sidelined for the Royals with a knee injury.
McBride consistently caused problems for the center of the Chelsea defense Saturday and it finally paid off with the equalizer six minutes from time. Fulham defender Franck Queudrue's free kick from the left side bounced through the penalty area and squirted past Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien, striker Didier Drogba and midfielder Michael Ballack, who all miserably tried, but failed to clear the ball. McBride was there to receive the low cross and swept a hard shot that keeper Henrique Hilario was barely able to get a foot on. The carom went to Bocanegra who poked it home from four yards for his second goal of the season.
With the score tied at 1-1 at intermission, McBride and Bocanegra came close to giving the Cottagers a lead. Off a Wayne Routledge corner, McBride rose up and banged a header that seemed to have Hilario beaten, but the keeper stuck a hand out at the last second and tipped the ball over his end-line. On the ensuing corner kick to the near post, Bocanegra had Hilario beaten, but he flicked a header inches wide of the far post.
It was Chelsea that exploited one of several defensive lapses for a 2-1 advantage in the 62nd minute. Midfielder Frank Lampard controlled in the penalty area, turned Fulham defenders and chipped back to Drogba who powered a point-blank header into the net.
In a cold, driving rain, Chelsea started quickly, but Fulham went ahead 1-0 against the run of play. In the 18th minute. Defender Moritz Volz controlled a throw-in into the Chelsea box, turned and put a deflection into the net.
However, 17 minutes later came a display of the defensive futility that has frustrated Coleman so greatly. Fulham defender Liam Rosenior was under no pressure as he settled under a long ball into his box, but he headed the ball directly to Lampard who slammed a shot. The ball was going wide, but Rosenior directed it into his own goal as he attempted to clear, evening the count at 1-1.
In Wednesday's 2-2 draw at Charlton Athletic, McBride and Bocanegra switched roles. McBride converted a rebound of Bocanegra's shot for a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute.
Bocanegra handcuffed Charlton keeper Scott Carson, who parried the ball away. McBride, who increasingly is considered one of the most dangerous strikers in England, pounced on the ball and knocked it home from five yards with his left foot.
Seven minutes later, Charlton midfielder Darren Ambrose's cracking strike made it 1-1 and the Addicks went ahead 2-1 in the 45th minute when Darren Bent exploited a a miscommunication between Bocanegra and another defender to slip through and find net.
McBride and Bocanegra both attacked freely in the second half and tested Carson, but it wasn't until Queudrue nailed a controversial free kick from the right side in the third minute of stoppage time that Fulham had its draw. An assistant referee ruled Charlton defender Djimi Traore had handled the ball, when it appeared certain Cottagers striker Tomasz Radzinski was the guilty party.