The chattering from the American peanut gallery is that Clint Dempsey should be permanently dropped. The theory is that Dempsey doesn’t give a proper effort and has held the US team back.
So the fans who advocate the permanent benching of Dempsey are comfortable:
- Dropping the only American to score in World Cup 2006
- The only American field player, who is a standout player for a European club side of some note.
- The only USMNT player who has proven he can score critical goals in critical games against the best teams in the world, during the run of play.
Only Clint Dempsey has scored goals against Spain, England, Ghana and Brazil in his career.
While some US fans may be taken with the exciting performances by Stuart Holden versus CONCACAF opposition, Holden is yet to prove he can have anything remotely resembling Dempsey’s impact against sides that will actually qualify for the World Cup next year.
I like Stuart Holden as a reserve that can bring some energy or tactical change off of the bench late in matches. However, if a player of Holden’s obvious limitations and lack of seasoning were to start in a World Cup, we would just be demonstrating how limited the US talent pool is, and how little imagination and creativity we tolerate.
Holden is a good wide player, and he does fit Bradley’s system. But he is still very raw, and makes the mistakes typical of an MLS player who has not truly faced many daunting matches on the club level. Holden’s two critical mistakes late against Holland in last summer’s Olympic Tournament cost the US advancement to the next round. While Holden has certainly matured since then, he still not a sharp enough, seasoned enough footballer to be counted on to provide what Dempsey can bring.
Dempsey, on the other hand does things that other American players don’t do. His runs off the ball are daring, and timely. He has an ability to take players on, and make them miss. Much of Dempsey’s frustration or indifferent performances for the US versus CONCACAF opposition, I believe reflect on the fact that players that surround him don’t do the things his team mates at Fulham do.
From Dempsey’s vantage point, his teammates for the US team are probably often poorly positioned, playing too wide, and not making the type of attacking, diagonal runs you see Roy Hodgson’s side make all the time in Premier League play. One current US player who has the vision and imagination of Dempsey and matches it, is Jonathan Spector. That’s why you saw the two develop a connection in the Confederations Cup.
While European club experience and form is not the simple prerequisite for international success (if it were Honduras would not be trailing Costa Rica in the Hex table), it has to count for something. The American backline against Honduras was severely tested going up against European club players, and the poor play from the two holding mids and left back Jonathan Bornstein can be attributed to a lack of experience or composure against better attacking players. So European club success does count for something, and Dempsey has it more than any other current US field player.
Let me address something else. For many months and perhaps years now, there has been some sort of desire or dare I say, an agenda to tear down Clint Dempsey among certain US supporters. I am not sure if has to do with envy over Dempsey’s European club success, anger at his harsh words for MLS, or lack of comfort with his personality and background.
Whether it is all of the above, or none of the above it is painfully obvious to me that Dempsey is being judged on a different and more critical standard than any other US player. That is flat out wrong, and shows that still American supporters have a lot of growing up to do when they analyze the world game.