If Clint Dempsey Leaves Fulham, Who Should Replace Him?

There is much speculation about which team may acquire American Clint Dempsey from Fulham at the end of this season.  Arsenal is one of the latest teams rumored to be interested in him.  Dempsey is in high demand after scoring a career-high 17 goals this season – more than any other American in Premier League history.  He is currently ranked number 18 in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index among all Premier League players (13th among the league’s midfielders).  He has played more minutes this season than any other player in the Index top 30 except goalkeepers Joe Hart and Tim Krul.  Dempsey also placed fourth in last month’s voting for the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year Award.  Not bad for a soccer player from Nacogdoches, Texas.

Like many American soccer fans, I am proud of Dempsey and his accomplishments in the Premier League.  I understand his desire to play in the Champions League before his career is over and I see why he would want to take advantage of a bigger club should the opportunity arise.  At the same time, the idea of him leaving Fulham after he’s become such a fixture at the club is a bit disappointing.  I like knowing every time I catch a Fulham match Dempsey will be there, putting in another gritty 90-minute shift.  I’m not sure he would get nearly as much playing time at a club like Arsenal as he does so consistently for Fulham.  At the same time, his ambition to win a trophy is understandable.  He has certainly paid his dues in the Premier League.

Along with a lot of other American soccer fans, I’ve developed an affection for Fulham over the past several years because of the American players who have played for the club like Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, and Clint Dempsey.  So what if another club offers Fulham a deal for Dempsey that is too good to pass up?  How can Fulham keep this American connection going?  There is actually another Texan with a lot of potential as a Dempsey replacement at Fulham. His name is Brek Shea.

Shea is a tall midfielder with a skill set and competitiveness similar to Dempsey’s.  At only 22-years-old, he’s already in his fifth season with FC Dallas.  Last season he was nominated for the MLS MVP award and was named to the MLS Best XI.  Shea has also earned ten caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team, most of those coming within the last year.  This past January Shea was invited to spend a month training with Arsenal.  Although Arsene Wenger downplayed the invitation, it was still a great opportunity for Shea and an acknowledgement of his potential.

Shea is a Dempsey-style go-getter who would make a great acquisition for Fulham.  He’s young, still affordable, and could immediately help fill the gap if Dempsey leaves.  Shea would fit in well with Fulham’s aggressive, counter-attacking style.  He would be a speedy complement to Kerim Frei, another young Fulham midfielder who’s made a splash this year.  As an FC Dallas fan, I would hate to see Shea go, but the experience he could gain playing consistently at Fulham could do for Shea what it has for Dempsey – develop him into a world-class player.

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