Written by Gilda Doria in 2013
Edited by James Ziemba in 2015
Midfielder, #8, 30 Years Old at the time of the 2014 World Cup
Image courtesy of: seattlesportscentral.com
Male American soccer players have been known to have little respect internationally from the soccer community. The American system has been consistently ridiculed for lacking player development in their youth systems, as well as the ability to generate enough quality players to field a team that can compete among the best on a world stage. The harsh criticism comes as no surprise, as the US Men’s National team’s biggest accomplishment dates back almost 83 years, when they reached the semi-finals of the 1930 World Cup. In recent years, despite having qualified for every World Cup since 1990, their furthest run came in 2002 when they defeated Mexico 2-0 in order to advance to the quarterfinal . After a strong showing in international matches this year, Brazil 2014 will be the team’s greatest opportunity to silence critics and show the world its ability to compete.
Prior to the 2010 World Cup, the US team was beginning to display its potential. The 2009 Confederations Cup showed their first signs of promise, as they defeated Spain before falling in a hard fought battle to Brazil in the final. Although the team’s future seemed bright after the close of the 2009 campaign, injuries to 3 top players dampened their spirits. The difference between the team from 2010 and the roster preparing to head into the 2014 tournament, is the quality of players coming off the bench. Injuries to key players now would not have as devastating an effect as it did in 2010. The bench boasts of quality players like Aron Johannsson, John Anthony Brooks, Eddie Johnson, Graham Zusi, and Alejandro Bedoya just to name a few. The last World Cup will not have much to compare to the one in 2014, as Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley who were 20 and 22 respectively will now have a World Cup under their belt, as well as four more years of development. Another thing to note is that this will probably be the core group of veteran’s last hurrah. Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Tim Howard, and Clint Dempsey will feel the pressure to perform as they seek to end their careers with the US on a high note .
Although the 2010 World Cup was a good showing for the US, finishing at the top of their group before falling to Ghana in the Round of 16, the team still has more room to grow. New coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, has a very different coaching philosophy than old coach, Bob Bradley. He is not scared of expanding the roster to include more internationals or leaving out well-known players from camps when they are not performing. His wealth of experience during his time as a player will surely benefit the team during World Cup play. He won a World Cup with Germany in 1990 and took a third place finish in 2006. Klinsmann has challenged the US team ever since joining in 2011. They have achieved great results at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Europe, and on their home turf. He does not want their tough group draw to be an excuse for exiting the tournament early.
NATIONAL TEAM EXPERIENCE:
If the US expects to make a far run in the tournament, captain and midfielder, Clint Dempsey, will need to be playing at his best. He is the only American who has scored in a World Cup for eight years. The 6’1 versatile right-footed midfielder will be the player to watch next summer. His craftiness and defensive work rate combined with his unpredictability in front of goal make him one of the US team’s biggest threats. As the most decorated player in US history, he has also become the highest salaried US soccer player of all time. He made his first appearance with the US Soccer system at the 2003 FIFA Youth Championship in United States Emirate. He then made his first senior cap the following season against Jamaica. Since then he has appeared in two World Cups with the senior team, the 2006 World Cup and 2010 World Cup. Out of the 93 appearances he has made with the United States, he has scored 32 goals, earning him three US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year awards and the 2006 Honda Player of the Year honors, deemed the highest American individual honor .
Image courtesy of: sportsillustrated.cnn.com
Dempsey’s story is different than other American soccer stars. Born on March 9, 1983 in Nacogdoches, Texas, he did not grow up playing for an Academy team or come from a family who could afford private lessons. In fact, he learned the game from local Mexican immigrants who lived in his trailer park complex. His soccer career happened by chance as he was spotted juggling on the sideline of his brother’s tryout for the Dallas Texans. After his club career, he went on to play four years at Furman University before being drafted 8th overall in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft by New England Revolution. While playing for the New England Revolution, he landed MLS Rookie of the Year honors, appeared in two MLS Cup Finals, and combined for a total of 25 goals in 3 seasons. In December 2006, English club Fulham offered the MLS $4 million for the transfer of Dempsey. During his time there, he broke the American record by scoring 10 goals in a Premier League season. He then went on to make more history becoming the first ever American to appear in a major European final. He was also among the only five USA players in the Premier League to become a regular starter. For both the 2011 and 2012 campaigns at Fulham, he was awarded “Fulham’s Player of the Season” award. Over his 6 years there, he combined for a total of 50 goals in 184 appearances . He then moved to Tottenham Hotspur for a year before moving back to the States to join Seattle Sounders FC where he currently resides.
Despite all the great accomplishments the US and Dempsey have achieved since the last World Cup, it will all mean nothing without a strong showing in Brazil. An early exit during group play would surely call for a change in coaching staff. The US has set the bar high and therefore not advancing to the quarterfinals will be seen as a failure. In regards to the group of death, Dempsey had a few words with media, “It’s excitement,” he said, “that’s what the World Cup is about. It’s about playing the best teams. We got a good group as far as that’s concerned. We have the quality if we play our best ball that we can get out of the group. We just have to do that, try to get the most out of every game and not wait until that last game and not needing other teams to do favors for you.”  If the US is able to dodge injuries and the group of death they have been put in, expect surprises from this squad.
HOW DID THEY DO:
To the surprise of many, the USMNT was able to advance out of the “Group of Death,” and they did so in memorable fashion. In their opening match against Ghana, the US capitalized on their first scoring chance of the tournament, with Dempsey scoring just 30 seconds into the contest. A late second half goal by Andre Ayew of the Ghanan side seemed as if it would rob the US of a valuable two points, but substitute John Brooks’ miraculous header in the 86th minute put the US up for good and helped deliver a 2-1 decision.
The US’ second group-stage match pitted them against a Portugal club led by future Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. An early goal by Portugal was countered by two American ones, one of which was scored by Dempsey that gave the US the lead in the 81st minute. Ronaldo, however, assisted on an injury-time goal that helped Portugal claim a 2-2 tie, leaving the US’ hopes of advancing to the knockout round hinging on their match against world power (and eventual champion) Germany.
The US team entered the match needing only a tie to advance. The game’s only score was recorded by Germany’s Thomas Muller in the 55th minute. Portugal’s 2-1 victory over Ghana, however, gave the US the greater goal differential it needed to advance through this so-called “Group of Death.”
Unfortunately, American hearts were broken yet again during the Round of 16, as the US squad suffered a tough-luck 2-1 OT loss to a Belgian squad that was headlined by Vincent Kompany and Eden Hazard. The game was scoreless through the first 90 minutes, but two Belgian scores in the first half of overtime all but sealed the Americans’ fate. Julian Green added his first World Cup goal in the second half of overtime, but the US was unable to provide any additional scoring. Keeper Tim Howard earned Man of the Match honors despite the loss. He set a World Cup record with 15 saves in the contest.
How to cite this article: “United States: Clint Dempsey,” Written by Gilda Doria (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).