It doesn’t seem so long ago that Clint Dempsey’s naughty little shirt pull propelled him so usefully past a Ghanaian defender that 2006 day in Nuremburg.
It was quintessential Dempsey – or what we would soon know as “quintessential Dempsey.” Seeing DaMarcus Beasley had created a midfield turnover, using those instincts to recognize the moment, Dempsey’s savvy shirt pull provided him the one-step head start he needed, a small edge that made a huge difference as he met Beasley’s curling ball. That marked the “want to” element and the street-smarts that have always been part of Dempsey’s game. From there, the skill element took hold as Dempsey finished with authority, without prejudice.
Bruce Arena’s team could not get it done that day, but Dempsey’s crashing first-half strike spoke of things to come. He was just 23, an offer from Fulham soon forthcoming. At Craven Cottage in West London, he would become one of American soccer’s most treasured Yanks Abroad.
But you know all that. What we tend to forget is that Dempsey has been doing his thing for more than a decade, that he began building this brilliant career a dozen seasons back; Dempsey scored the first of his 44 MLS goals back in 2004.
Because of the way he carries himself – always playing like that scrappy East Texas kid, still a man who enjoys hanging with his family or doing a little fishing, Huck Finn-like – we still think of Dempsey as a younger player, still driving with determination through his best career years.
But the reality is slowly setting in: Dempsey isn’t that young man anymore. He’s more “Daddy Deuce” than “Kid Deuce” these days. He recently turned 32.
That doesn’t mean Dempsey cannot be effective. He most certainly can be, at league level and at international level. Which is why the Sounders’ highly paid star remains a league MVP candidate, part of one of the best strike duos (along with Obafemi Martins) that MLS has ever seen. And that is why he remains a central figure of U.S. rosters.
Well, he does when healthy. And that’s the point here.
Dempsey will miss another U.S. match (Wednesday vs. Mexico) due to recurring hamstring issues. It is now happening with concerning frequency. Not that this should really surprise us – and yet it does. And it makes us squirm a bit for the tough reality, the looming knowledge that Dempsey, who scored World Cup goals in 2006, 2010 and 2014 – Think about that as a career accomplishment, scoring in three World Cups! – may not be around to score in another one.