Los Angeles (AFP) – United States coach Bruce Arena said he will take a cautious approach before recalling Clint Dempsey to the national team as the striker works his way back to fitness following a heart problem.
Dempsey scored in Seattle’s opening defeat against Houston last weekend, his first Major League Soccer game since being sidelined last year following the discovery of an irregular heartbeat.
The 33-year-old’s return to action has led to speculation he could be in line for a recall to the US squad as they build towards crucial World Cup qualifiers this month against Panama and Honduras.
However, Arena hinted he may delay a recall for Dempsey in order to allow the striker more time to regain full fitness.
“I think with Clint we need to be cautious in our approach,” Arena said during a Facebook question and answer session.
“It was great to see him play in the opening game in Houston for Seattle and I want to see him again this weekend, really see where he’s at physically, if he’s getting a little bit sharper, if he’s increasing his workload on the field,” said Arena, who returned as US coach last year following the sacking of Jurgen Klinsmann.
“We know he’s obviously a very good player and he’s got a great history with the national team, but we want to be smart about Clint and make sure that he’s ready to play international soccer,” added Arena, who gave Dempsey his international debut in 2004 during his previous reign as US coach.
Arena said Dempsey’s return in 2017 would only be a matter of time, provided he proved his fitness.
“The next two weekends are going to be very important, so we’ll follow him closely. I’m happy to see he’s back on the field and I’m confident that he’ll be part of the national team at some point in 2017,” Arena said.
Arena also said he was monitoring the fitness of England-based defenders Geoff Cameron and DeAndre Yedlin, who have both been hampered by injuries recently.