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Clint Dempsey leads Revs and US with style
Foxboro, MA. – In the aftermath of a disappointing World Cup for the US Men’s National Team, both former Head Coach Bruce Arena and former captain Claudio Reyna have commented on the necessity of more players plying their trade in Europe for the US to advance. This belief, though held by many, fails to have much backing when one considers the best player for the US in this World Cup was in fact the New England Revolution’s own Clint Dempsey. On the world’s biggest stage, where the more experienced players such as Reyna and Landon Donovan made costly errors or underperformed, Dempsey never looked intimidated and showed the same moves he displays every week for the Revs to beat some of the most highly rated defenders in the world.

Dempsey grew up in a trailer in Nacogdoches, Texas, where his mother pushed him into sports as a child. “My mom just put me into everything and let me decide for myself [what sport to choose],” He said. “Ever since I can remember this is the sport I fell in love with, because it is continuous and other sports just had too many stoppages for me.”

At age 10, Clint was introduced to club soccer. His brother Ryan had been told he needed better competition to get noticed for college, so the family took the three hour drive from Nacogdoches to Dallas to try out for the Texas Longhorns Soccer Club. Though Ryan’s age level was already full, Clint caught on with their U-11 squad. He would later switch to the Dallas Texans Soccer club and the three hour road trips would continue several times a year before he moved on to college.

Dempsey chose to continue his playing at the relatively small Furman University, while majoring in health and exercise science. While there he played in the midfield with current Houston Dynamo star Ricardo Clark. He racked up 17 goals and 19 assists in 62 matches and was named to the NSCAA All-America Second Team once, the All-Southern Conference team all three years he was there, as well as being a two time NSCAA All-South region choice.

In 2004, Dempsey turned pro when he was drafted in the first round (8th overall) of the Superdraft by the New England Revolution. His rookie season went as well as anyone could have hoped. He tallied 7 goals and an assist in 24 games while earning a place on the MLS All-Star team and being named MLS Rookie of the Year as well as Midnight Riders’ Man of the Year. “Unfortunately we had some injuries, but it gave me my opportunity to step up,” said Dempsey. “I just took advantage of my opportunity since the injuries happened. As it went on I started scoring goals and getting more and more confident. One thing led to another and you just start building momentum and that’s what happened.” Clint followed this up with 10 goals and 9 assists in 2005, earning a place on the All-Star team again as well as being named to the league’s Best XI and the Revs all-time Best XI. The Revs and Dempsey came just short of winning the MLS Cup, losing in overtime of the final to Los Angeles.

2004 also marked Dempsey’s start with the US Men’s National Team. In November of that year, Dempsey made his debut as a substitute against Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier. Unlike his club career, Dempsey’s rise internationally did not come without its struggles. Former Head Coach Bruce Arena struggled to find the best position for him trying him in different positions before seemingly deciding to stick with forward. “I did rise quick, but at the same time I’ve been through my struggles too with the national team,” Dempsey said. “With the U-20 National Team I played 20 minutes in the whole World Cup. To play significant minutes and to be a main player for the US and contribute for the full men’s national team is an ideal situation I couldn’t even have imagined.”

Dempsey finally found his spot on the US when Arena tried him as a right midfielder during the January 2006 US camp. He emerged with great performances and goals against Japan, Poland and Venezuela leading up to the World Cup that cemented his spot on the US roster for the World Cup and had many calling for him to start. Though he didn’t see any time in the USA’s first match against the Czech Republic, a disappointing 3-0 loss, he started the next two games and made a big impact. Against World Champions Italy, Dempsey possessed the ball very well, while winning one-on-one battles with some of the best defenders in the World, including Gianluca Zambrotta. Dempsey also created some of the best attacking chances for the USA in the match. Against Ghana, Dempsey was again the most dangerous player for the US in the attack and it paid off as he scored his sixth international goal. “It was great,” he recalled of the experience. “I had my family there and it was a dream come true.”

Now back with the Revs, Dempsey has revitalized an injury-plagued team. In his first four games back, Dempsey tallied three goals and two assists. After last years disappointing loss in the final, he is ready to lead the team back there again. “It always leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you get so close to winning a championship and you don’t,” Dempsey said. “Obviously that’s our goal again. We have the same personnel, so I think we should be able to do it. We are sitting pretty good right now in second, but everything is so close so we have to continue to get these wins and further ourselves from the pack so we can try to catch DC and put ourselves in a position to have a home game or two.”

With Clint’s quick rise and great World Cup performance he’s sure to have caught the eye of some European clubs. CNN International reported interest in Dempsey from the English Premier League. Meanwhile Eurosport is reporting West Ham is interested, while Bolton is another possibility that has been mentioned. “I’m happy and appreciate everything that MLS has done for me, but I want to take my game to the next level,” he said. “I want to be in stadiums that are packed and be in the highest level of competition. I don’t think MLS is there yet, but it is definitely moving in the right direction and I think it will get there one day, but I want to try other options and see where it goes.”

On the side, Dempsey has recorded a rap song for Nike soccer called “Don’t Tread on This”, under the nickname Deuce. Dempsey says he would like to continue this “here and there if I have time” and that “hopefully in the off season I’ll get some more time to do stuff like that”, but that his “main concern is soccer”. He has also recently started his own website, to communicate with his fans. He says the idea behind it is “to give an everyday person perspective into an everyday athlete, so they can just see what is going on and stay updated. I have a lot of family and friends back home and it is kind of for them too, just to see what is new and what is happening. It is just something to do, something to venture.”
July 20, 2006 Sean Donahue


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