Hard to believe, but as recently as January there was speculation about whether Clint Dempsey would continue to be part of the U.S. national team.
During Tuesday’s 4-0 rout of Costa Rica, Dempsey proved just how valuable, and unique, he is for the USA.
After Dempsey opened the scoring from the penalty spot, he assisted on the next two goals in the USA’s 4-0 rout over Costa Rica. For sure, Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood unleashed wonderfully accurate shots from about 18 yards, but neat as well was Dempsey’s prep work.
Before stroking the ball to Jones, Dempsey dribbled from near the center circle into the heart of the Tico defense, cutting away swiftly from Oscar Duarte and skipping past Johnny Acosta. On the Wood’s goal, Dempsey regained his balance to retrieve a deflection off Acosta and spun around to face him again. Dempsey, with a feint one doesn’t see often, froze upright for a second, stomped both his feet, and slipped the ball to Wood.
A flair for the creative and unpredictable -- and lots of important assists and goals have marked Dempsey’s national career since debuting in 2004.
His strike at Soldier Field on Tuesday marked his 50th goal for the USA. Teams he’s scored against include Brazil, England, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Portugal Spain and Mexico -- and pretty much every Concacaf foe. He’s the only American to have scored at three World Cups and is the USA’s all-time leading scorer in World Cup qualifying with 14.
Dempsey’s Greatest Hits
• USA 2 Ghana 1 (World Cup 2014)
• USA 2 Portugal 2 (World Cup 2014)
• USA 1 Italy 0 (friendly 2012)
• USA 1 England 1 (World Cup 2010)
• USA 2 Brazil 3 (Confederations Cup 2009)
• USA 2 Spain 0 (Confederations Cup 2009)
• USA 3 Egypt 0 (Confederations Cup 2009)
But the case for Dempsey isn’t about his laurels. Yes, he turned 33 in March, but last year he scored nine goals in 10 games for the USA.
During the USA’s dismal performance in the 2-0 Copa Centenario opening loss against Colombia, you wouldn’t have guessed he was the second-oldest player on the U.S. team. It was Dempsey who came closest to scoring and whom the Colombians couldn’t stop without fouling. Against Costa Rica, the Wood goal wasn’t the only time Dempsey sparked an attack by retreating to midfield and blazing through into Tico territory. He also served up Gyasi Zardes for a great chance in the first half.
That knack for producing the unexpected, for striking when the USA needs it most, isn’t going to disappear in any time soon for a player as clever as Dempsey.