Clint Dempsey Remains Irreplaceable For Both Club And Country
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On March 9, Clint Dempsey turned 33. George Best, Eric Cantona and Michel Platini all retired before reaching that milestone. Zinedine Zidane, Pele and Jurgen Klinsmann all retired at 34. With that in mind, you could forgive Dempsey for slowing down as he reaches the later stages of his playing career.
But Clint Dempsey would never forgive himself.
A player who has been described as possessing “sheer single-mindedness”, it’s difficult to envision Deuce playing soccer at anything less than full bore. The captain for both the United States and the Seattle Sounders is a consummate leader on the field, demanding total commitment and intensity from everyone around him. The old sports cliche of giving 110 percent has been debunked as being physically impossible.
In Dempsey, the idiom may just have an actual representation.
In the past week he’s been responsible for reviving the World Cup hopes of a nation and for delivering a first victory to his struggling club side. Dempsey's latest heroics began on March 29 with a return match against Guatemala. Guatemala's historic victory over the United States in Guatemala City on March 25 had seen the US come under intense scrutiny, Dempsey included.
With the United States facing an unprecedented early elimination in their quest for the 2018 World Cup, Dempsey assuaged any fears with a 12th minute goal, setting the stage for a comfortable 4-0 victory.
More important than the goal may have been the approach Dempsey took to the game.
With the entire country criticizing the performances of the group, Dempsey’s leadership was unequivocal. “You’ve got to look within yourself, man. How bad do you want it? How bad do you want to go to the World Cup?” said Dempsey. “How bad do you want to continue progressing the game in the States? You’ve got to put that on your shoulders, man. You’ve got to represent your country with pride, and I think the boys did that tonight.”
It’s what Dempsey has been doing consistently for 13 years now. His 49 goals in 122 national team appearances include 14 in World Cup qualifiers, the most in USMNT history. He’s also the only American player to score in three consecutive World Cups, and who would bet against him scoring in a fourth?
His form for Seattle has guaranteed him a continued place on the national team. In six appearances in all competitions this season, the forward from Nacogdoches, Texas, has scored three goals. His determined header over the weekend lifted Seattle past Montreal, giving the Sounders their first win of the season.
This goal is added to the two goals he scored against Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. His free kick golazo will live long in the memory.
Playing with the same joy, determination and skill that twice saw him named Fulham’s Player of the Season, awarded the Confederations Cup Bronze Ball and named the U.S. Soccer Player of the Year on three separate occasions, Deuce is spoiling supporters with a false impression of agelessness.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 3, 2016
The day will come when Dempsey will no longer be able to shoulder the burden of a nation’s attacking ambitions. With no viable solution or replacement in sight, we should treasure the unrepeatable contributions of America’s most accomplished men’s player of all-time.