[MY VIEW] Lost amid all the focus on England goalkeeper Robert Green’s gaffe is how Clint Dempsey tricked and spun his way around Steven Gerrard, leaving the England captain in the dust before unleashing a well-struck left-footed shot. It was just the latest example of the Dempsey brilliance that bodes well for the USA’s chances to go far at this World Cup.
With the pile-up on Green, no one seems to be blaming Gerrard for getting schooled by Dempsey. And they shouldn’t, because that would take credit away from Dempsey, a rare example of an American player with the creativity to evade a world-class foe one-on-one.
And then there’s the shot. No doubt about it, Green should have been able to stop it. But Dempsey hit it with pace and it bounced twice – the second within a yard of Green’s gloves -- on its 25-yard route to the goal, making its flight difficult to judge.
"They all count the same when they go in,” said Dempsey, who has a knack for scoring goals that count a lot.
His strike against England was his 19th in 63 appearances for the USA and his second in a World Cup, which has him joining Brian McBride as the only U.S. players to score in two World Cups.
During last year’s marvelous U.S. runner-up finish at the Confederations Cup, Dempsey scored the third goal in a 3-0 win over Egypt that clinched a semifinal spot. In the next game, he scored the second goal in the 2-0 win over European Champion Spain – after assisting on Jozy Altidore’s opening goal. Dempsey also scored the first goal in the 3-2 final loss to Brazil.
Dempsey scored five goals in qualifying play for this World Cup.
For his club, Fulham, he came off the bench in the Europa League quarterfinal and with a sublime long-range chip into the top far corner of the goal took the Cottagers past Juventus and earned him Fulham's Goal of the Year honors -- quite an accomplishment from a season of some amazing Fulham goals.
In 2007, his goal for Fulham in a 1-0 win over Liverpool on the final game of the season saved the club from relegation to the second tier – a fate that would have cost Fulham about $60 million.
Had Dempsey not juked his way around Gerrard and pulled the trigger, the USA’s chances of reaching the second round would have looked grim, history tells us.
Since the World Cup expanded to 32 teams in 1998, 33 of the 36 teams that lost their opening game in those three tournaments exited in the first round. The tie against England thanks to Dempsey is golden.
Against Slovenia on Friday, the USA will play the rare role of the favorite. It will be looking for what would be only its third first-round win in six straight World Cups against a team likely to bunker down with a packed defense and a chance to clinch advancement with a win.
With Dempsey, that's a challenge the Americans can conquer.