Clint Dempsey’s selection as captain of the United States Men’s National Team a year ago by head coach Jürgen Klinsmann was a head scratcher at the time. Having not displayed discernable leadership skills on the pitch, one had to assume the manager felt the need to either reward arguably his best player or that Dempsey possesses some inspirational quality in the dressing room.
What has been apparent however since he was named captain is that Dempsey is missing some of the vital ingredients to be a true leader on the pitch. His body language is often times negative and he is far from the most vocal USMNT regular. The player’s form has also dipped dramatically and the manager seemed disappointed by Dempsey not consulting him before his move from Tottenham to Seattle Sounders last summer.
After completing a very disappointing loan spell at Fulham, Dempsey captained the USMNT in the 2-0 loss to Ukraine. In that match, Dempsey’s mannerisms appeared negative and his play was poor. Then late in the match he acted out in an immature and childish way towards an opposition player and was fortunate not to be sent off.
At this point, Klinsmann might need to consider stripping Dempsey of the captaincy and giving it to another veteran player such as goalkeeper Tim Howard. Michael Bradley, who is also a regular and a vocal leader, is another possibility. For many months now, it has seemed Dempsey is going through the motions both at the club and national team level. While this may not actually be true, a captain is held to a higher standard and it is level Dempsey is not attaining currently.
The key would be to ensure that Klinsmann doesn’t change captains in a way that makes Dempsey, an already somewhat volatile character, check out on the national team before this summer’s World Cup. Handling Dempsey quietly before making an announcement would be advantageous. Or perhaps never making an announcement and just handing Howard or Bradley the armband for the first of the three send-off series friendlies before the World Cup would make sense.
Jürgen Klinsmann demands a level of commitment, leadership and excellence from his players that forces even the top stars away from their comfort zone. Dempsey has either gotten too comfortable in his situation or simply lost some of his passion and interest for the national team. Either way, a change is a good idea and I am confident Klinsmann is actively considering it. Whether he actually makes the change is a different matter entirely, but the points made in this article have certainly already crossed the mind of the manager on multiple occasions.