There was no celebration, no puff of the chest and no over exuberance from Clint Dempsey. The American forward had scored a goal and, much like Mario Balotelli, seemed to view it as no more impressive than a USPS employee delivering the mail.
A devilish free kick that kissed the underside of the bar this past weekend against FC Dallas — this was the Clint Dempsey Seattle Sounders fans expected when he was unveiled at Century Link Field in July last year. Arriving off the back of an acceptable showing at Tottenham, the Texan born forward decided he wanted to be back in Major League Soccer, to make an impact on the league’s future.
It wasn’t plain sailing though. Dempsey started slow, and as the hype machine continued to crank, with it came a pressure that seemed to disrupt Dempsey’s flow.
It was a situation that wasn’t helped by a loan spell with Fulham. Dempsey had likened Craven Cottage to ‘home’, but it did not prove a safe haven. Playing just a handful of games, Dempsey quietly departed the pitch after his final appearance, albeit without regrets as he told Bleacher Report:
“I knew they were down toward the bottom of the table and it was going to be a difficult situation that I was going into. I wanted to come back and get back to playing with some of the best competition, work on my fitness and form and try to help the team as much as I could.”
Heading back to Seattle, Dempsey nestled into the club’s preparations ahead of a new campaign. Speaking to Associated Press in February he said: “It’s been tough, but also it’s been good for me, trying to get back to fitness and feeling good, coming off an injury towards the end of the season with the national team,” he said during a telephone interview Thursday. “It’s good to get some games, some minutes over here, but unfortunately the results haven’t been going our way. But I’ve still got a month left and hopefully we can start getting some points.”
Thus with the new season approaching, there was a sense of intrigue enveloping the Seattle training camp. A new question, one previously unthought of had emerged: will Clint Dempsey perform?
The answer it seemed from the start of the season was yes. A goal against Toronto FC, his impassioned celebration felt like the subtle lifting of weight from a man’s shoulders. Although the game resulted in a loss, he would eventually have his special moment with Seattle’s fans.
A goal against your fierce rivals will do a great deal in endearing you to fans. Three in one game will mean you’re unlikely to have to buy a drink for a few months. A hat-trick against Seattle in a 3-3 draw, Dempsey now seemed back into the kind of rhythm he had during his first spell at Fulham.
Crescendoing last weekend with a two goal haul against FC Dallas, Dempsey had restored his tag as ‘match winner’. He has also once again reconstructed the narrative that trails him.
With the World Cup rapidly approaching, concerns remain over Jozy Altidore. The forward has just two goals this season for Sunderland, and with Gus Poyet seemingly ostracizing him from the first team, the question remains over whether this will impact his international form.
Alongside the Sunderland striker is Aron Johansson. Currently with Altidore’s former club AZ, the youngster has never sampled the intensity of a World Cup, which in turn would lead to concerns over how he would handle such a unique situation.
Thus, come the start of the tournament, there remains every chance that Clint Dempsey could be the best option for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
With his fourteen game goalless run for Seattle now long forgotten, Dempsey could become a savior for both club and country, and not a moment too late.