Clint Dempsey on his Texas roots, family and USMNT

Clint Dempsey will be inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Saturday following a 15-year pro career that took him to New England and Seattle in MLS and Fulham and Tottenham in the Premier League.

Dempsey played in three World Cups for the USA and finished his international career with 141 caps and 57 goals, tied with Landon Donovan for the most among U.S. men. He was elected with 97.9% from the player voting committee, ahead of Shannon Boxx and Hope Solo, the next two highest vote-getters in this year's induction class.

Dempsey's older brother, Ryan, will introduce him, and other family members will join him at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Frisco, Texas. It was Ryan who got Clint interested in soccer when they were children in Nacogdoches, Texas.

"He's the one that got us into the game at a young age," said Dempsey on a media call ahead of the Hall of Fame induction, "and introduced us to international soccer, being able to watch World Cups and see packed stadiums and finding out about Dallas."

It's a three-hour drive from Nacogdoches to Dallas, already a mecca for youth soccer in the 1990s. The goal was to get Clint a college scholarship -- he played three seasons at Furman University before turning pro -- and to do that he needed to find his way to Dallas, which he did with the help of his parents and grandparents.

"Without them." he said, "it's not possible. Whether it was my grandparents who were helping my mom and my dad out in terms of having us sometimes in the summers when they were working, whether it's my mom and dad driving me back and forth up to Dallas, whether it's my grandparents helping with the donations for me to try to go to regional camp or ODP, which we couldn't afford."

Dempsey said the goal was to get the best coaching possible and best competition possible and hone the skills he learned in Nacogdoches. Dallas might have provided the springboard to his Hall of Fame career, but Nacogdoches is what made him the player he was.

"I would play Hispanic league, and I played high school soccer as well," he said. "A lot of those guys were from El Salvador, were from Mexico, were from Costa Rica, were from Honduras. I would say playing in an Hispanic league, playing men's league, shaped me because you get elbowed, you get pushed down. You gotta be tough. I come from a working-class family. What you have to work for is what you get. When you see Latin play, you think keeping possession, trying to take people on. That's kind of what influenced my game, being around those environments. And at the same time, I always wanted to prove myself and test myself. And if I get knocked down, I'm gonna get back up. That was always my mentality. And I think I was blessed to have grown up in that environment. I look back on some of those times as what made me tough."

Dempsey also learned to never take anything for granted.

"It gave me my chip on my shoulder that I was always having to prove myself and nothing was ever easy," he added, "but it's what gave me peace in the end also because it made everything that much better when it all worked out."

* * * * *

As a child, Dempsey wanted to play in the World Cup.

"That was what I dreamed about and prayed about," he said. "But realistically it was trying to get to college, trying to get a college scholarship because that's what all the driving was about. That was the game plan. And from there, kind of see what happened."

Dempsey said it wasn't until he got to Furman and played with other players who turned pro -- fellow Palladin Ricardo Clark was the No. 2 pick in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft and later started with Dempsey on the 2010 U.S. World Cup team -- that he realized he could do it, too.

"It's just, you know, whether or not I get that opportunity," he said. "And when I got that opportunity, just to make the most of it. I feel like I did."

Dempsey credits Steve Nicol and the late Paul Mariner, his coaches at the New England Revolution, for believing in him when he signed in 2014.

"Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner had a big influence on my career, being able to go professional, believing in me and giving me the opportunity as a young guy coming into that team and giving confidence to me to go out there and express myself and also saying that they thought that in a year or two I could be representing my country."

By the end of his rookie season with the Revs, Dempsey made his senior debut for the USA, and two years later he went to the World Cup, where he was the only American player to score a goal.

Among his many records, Dempsey is the only American to score in three men's World Cups, following up with the USA's first goals at the 2010 World Cup (1-1 tie with England) and 2014 World Cup (2-1 win over Ghana).

* * * * *

Dempsey's international career ended when the USA failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup -- he was a second-half sub in the deciding match against Trinidad & Tobago in Couva. He says he enjoys playing golf, hunting and fishing, and also raising his five children -- "It's definitely busy around the Dempsey house -- but also working in broadcasting. He began at CBS Sports in 2021 -- "I liked that it wasn't week to week because I enjoy being retired" --  and will be working for Fox Sports on its 2022 World Cup coverage.

Paramount+ did the USA's road matches during the World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign so Dempsey followed the national team closely. He said the USA lacked "a No. 9 who could consistently score, whether it was one goal every other game or every other two games, I just felt like that's something that we didn't have. We needed more of a goal threat there. I think that we did create chances."

And what would he like to see moving forward?

"I felt like when teams pressed us, we struggled at times in terms of building out of the back," he said. "At the same time, we're open to the counter. So it's being careful about how we get forward and not leaving ourselves open to get countered."

14 comments about "Clint Dempsey on his Texas roots, family and USMNT".
  1. Wooden Ships, May 17, 2022 at 8:48 a.m.

    "Deuece". Enjoyed watching him play and really like his analysis on Paramount+. Enjoy your induction this weekend Clint. 

  2. frank schoon, May 17, 2022 at 9:42 a.m.

    The first time I watched him play, I noticed him to be a little different from the other American players. I could tell the way he moved with the ball ,how he addressed himself to his opponent and other nuances that he was step above the other Americans...It was only later that I found out that he played alot with hispanics in their environment.

    And until our American boys grow up playing pickup ball with better players with a better balltouch, we can talk all you want about player development in the Academies and all that rot but we'll continue produce clodhoppers no matter how well licensed and well 'schooled, or how well computer programmed the trainings are......

    I only wish in this interview considering Clint's backround in having played , domestic and international, his advice on youth training and what possible suggestions to improve our youth development....Don't understand why we don't get a little focus on those issues as well. After all this is a medium that specializes in soccer....

  3. humble 1 replied, May 17, 2022 at 1 p.m.

    The pay-to-play system here sells that they 'ID' and 'develop' players.  Any path that is free or outside of their control is a threat and is diminished and stamped out.  USCS and USYS depend on the youth clubs, so they are part of the mafia.  Until parents wise up and realize a kid needs to learn to master a soccer ball on his own, just like a basketball player, this will be the way.  A wall is a young soccer players best friend when he's alone.  My player played six years of playground ball, every recess, fist fights and all that goes a long with it.  He has the creative flair, and passion that many lack.  Then you have the problem that coaches do not know how to recognize creativity here, they even snuff it out. Long way to go.  Progress is happening, inspite of the 'system', one player and one family at a time.  Make it happen!   

  4. Wooden Ships replied, May 17, 2022 at 1:38 p.m.

    You're right Frank about his movements and the way he showed for the ball. Because of how he learned courage emerged. For interviews to be more incise one needs to be aware, there in lies the problem. I wish SA would contract articles with you asking those questions of players-coaches. Piece meal like they do with Ahmet.

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, May 17, 2022 at 3:36 p.m.

    Actually the good news is that there were better youth players than Clint Dempsey when he was developing. The horror is why was only Dempsey given a chance at USYS soccer and not the Hispanic players? Yes we have Hispanic players and coaches involved in USYS, but the higher you go up, the more dependent advancement is on who you know rather than what you know. That is the cultural barrier.

    How many USSF Hispanic coaches break the barrier only to be later marginalized or fired? 

  6. frank schoon replied, May 17, 2022 at 4:48 p.m.

    Ships, there are so many interesting questions to ask and to learn from so that our readers, especially the coaches could use in their training other kids. 
    I just don't get it for it is not every day that SA has a player of Duece's stature that is being interviewed.  Here is a chance to pick his brain and let him tell you interesting insights about what he has learned  and would be of interest to our player development....I think many of us know Clint for he's been around for quite a few year and therefore much of his story....

    This is what I miss about SA they cover too much of the superficial stuff, which is also of interest but SA is a magazine that specializes in Soccer and therefore needs to get a little more informative on other aspects of the game, as well. Its reporting needs to get a little more rounded. We've had Frank de Boer, Tito, Henri, Etcheverry, Valderama, etc,etc, here and none have ever been interviewed about soccer and they played at highest level. Their insights could be eye opening. We constantly get interviews with college coaches, 3 to 4x per year Anson Dorrance, etc. and the like,but it would be nice to those who played at the highest level. 

  7. R2 Dad replied, May 17, 2022 at 6:13 p.m.

    Frank, I would like to see SA give you an editor and a weekly or monthly column to address many of these topics which have never been specfically addressed on this site. No knock against SA--I like what they're doing, espcially adding Ahmet, Ian & Beau more recently. We could use a kind of an Xs & Os chalk talk on the fine points of how to think about the game and what you see as missing from current player development.

  8. humble 1 replied, May 17, 2022 at 6:42 p.m.

    I do get a lot from Frank Schoon and many other regular and irregular commentators here on SA and from the SA articles. I learned early on my soccer parent journey there's a lot misinformation and misrepresentation and that actionable youth soccer guidance does not fall in your lap, you to have to seek it out.  I am pretty sure this article was not from an interview, as the Duece is known to be elusive, rather it was a peice summarizing his comments from a general media call around his induction to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.  The trouble with finding take aways from Duece and other players of his generation is that they are nearly all bespoke tales.  The system, DA or now MLS Next, tries to take credit for players success, probably it is the exception when they are correct, usually when you peel back the layers, it's not as simple as getting your kid in a DA or MLS Next academy, though they will tell you that's all you have to do.  I was told around the time my son started kicking a soccer ball, that soccer was political from youth, to HS, college and beyond.  That was sage advice. It's all good.  My son has played 50 games so far in 2022, for club and HS.   This is maybe too many, but was not even possible for boys his age playing in 2018, none of the leagues he plays in existed back then.  The youth landscape is evolving, not perfectly, not in a linear line qualitatively, but for sure in quantity, and from this good things will come.  Keep it going!   

  9. Wooden Ships replied, May 17, 2022 at 8:13 p.m.

    Bob, you're absolutely correct on better players excluded, for 55 years that I'm aware of. I played with many in the California leagues in the mid 70's. It's been political since my youth in St. Louis. 

    R2, agreed on Frank. We, SA need to get about it as many of the greats are not getting any younger. 

    Humble, you're right about Clint, a compilation really. He's also a guy that might not be able to deliver in speech without someone soliciting. 

  10. Ric Fonseca replied, May 20, 2022 at 6:49 p.m.

    Bob Ashploe re your questionj above on why/how there aren't that many "Hispanic coaches," well someone out there might want to do a little research to try and find out the "Why" "marginalization" and "firing" take place.  I could, but having been a contrinubor (in the early SA stages) and heving been there and done that, all I will say that some decades ago, a well known college coach and later a "pro coach" once told aa story that he know for a fact that not many "American" coaches wanted to play with a "bunch of scrubs."  OK, granted that was probably in "passing" but having been there and hearing that, I was shocked to a point since the comment came out of the mouth of a well known soccer guy.  Afterwards the comment still resounded for a while, and it has stuck with me, yet not suprised me because shortly thereafter, back home on So California, while preparing a team of ayso all stars, all U9, the commissioner approached me and demanded to see a particular player's registration and birth certificate.  Shocking?  Nope, but what was shocking was to other parents who defended the boy and whose parents had to go home to obtain their son's birth certificate as the commissioner would not let the boy play until she saw the BC - after the 2nd half had started.  This took place some 3 1/2 decades ago....  
    As to why there aren';t more "Hispanic coaches," US Soccer's penchant then was to believe that European coaches had better bona fides, in fact I vividly recall an Italian coach wanting to play for the club team we belonged to, saying that he'd played in and for AC Milano, so he knew more about soccer that anyone else....   Anyhow, stories abound this and other similar topics, enoiugh for some young graduate student wanting to write a graduate thesis or dissertation....

  11. uffe gustafsson, May 17, 2022 at 9:49 p.m.

    So I read most of the comments.
    if you read Slatan comments on the pay to pay and heard his view $3K a year for his kids. he was raised in Sweden where all fields are own by city or county and clubs mostly are part of park and rec as you would know it. So clubs don't pay the city/ schools fields they do pay for uniforms.
    that a very big cost for our clubs my club a big Bay Area club pay in access of $150k a year for field access and up keep.
    so the only way to get off pay to play is at first the city picks up the tab on fields and to me that's a no brainer as in less cost to play club soccer and it's to be incl more young kids to afford playing sports, sports keep youth out of trouble and teach very good life lessons,  But here is the other issue I have with club soccer, you get a coach this is for older players like late middle school to HS that want to play tornament all over.
    one coach my daughter had wanted to play in Portland we are Bay Area club but luckily parents sad no but he signed up for Arizona and I said no because I had a wedding for my older girl to pay for,  his response was we needed to rethink our commitment to the team. That is one real issue w club soccer
    that is what I call elitist thinking w some coaches and why kids from less money never stay.

  12. frank schoon replied, May 18, 2022 at 8:15 a.m.

    Uffe, I'm so incensed by this coach who told you in such an arrogant tone to rethink your commitment to the team. I've been around the block quite a few years in youth soccer and know exactly the personality of these types of coaches. Count yourself, lucky you're no longer with that team or rather that coach.
    These types of coaches are very team oriented and make their reputation on the team's success, not individual player other words , your kid is just a number and he get what he can out of her for his team's success. This seems to be how coaches here are measured by how by team's records not individual development...

  13. humble 1 replied, May 18, 2022 at 12:38 p.m.

    Thanks or sharing your experience Uffe. Always good to hear from other parents going through the 'system'.  The field size issue for me only exists because leagues run by USCS and USYS, (AYSO I do not know never have came across them, but I would guess they are the same), require clubs to have like 10 fields and 10 teams to play in their leagues.  My son has played in Uruguay also. In Uruguay, youth clubs finish at U14, the same age the kids move to the big field.  To have a youth club, all you need is half a pitch, and you play in the league that everyone plays in.  It is easy to find a half a pitch and work out a deal with a city or school or church.  The greedy 'system' here does not like this concept.  It will be up to parent to change it.  It will happen one day.  Here in my area of the U.S., there are broker clubs that let little one/two team clubs come in, but there's a mark-up, and only USYS let's this happen, USCS does not.  As for the 'commitment' comments, par for the course.  This comes from coaches that really do not have a grasp of youth soccer, the coach, as you know, after working with a player 14 or younger for a couple of months should know the player and family well enough to know the level of commitment, already.  Any family commitment that gets in the way of a game, comes in that context of already knowing, and a comment like that would be totally out of place.  Keep it going!    

  14. R2 Dad replied, May 18, 2022 at 3:15 p.m.

    Uffe, I get the sense that the "tournament culture" is winding down, mostly due to the fact that parents don't really want to volunteer for their club for an entire weekend once or twice per year. We used to have nearly every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor day filled with soccer tournaments--not anymore. I used to ref many of these back in the day, but just can't be bothered now that our kids have aged out of club soccer. The referee shortage is also a factor, though I'd like to hear from club owners about that aspect. Parent burn-out has got to be a big factor in the decline of tournaments. Is that's what's happening over in the East Bay at Mustang/Rage/Ballistic?

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