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As veteran forward Clint Dempsey prepares to move into the U.S. MNT’s all-time scoring lead, here are five things you should know about Deuce:
Deep in the Heart of Texas
Dempsey plays for Nacogdoches High School
Hailing from Nacogdoches, Texas, Dempsey grew up in a trailer, playing soccer with bare feet on dirt fields where neighborhood kids would mark the goals with t-shirts and rolled-up socks. Once Dempsey’s talent was recognized, his parents would make the six-hour round trip drive to Dallas to practice with Dallas Texans, an elite youth club. The family sacrificed to help Clint’s dreams come true – the five kids would share one meal eating out and the only family vacations were trips to soccer tournaments.
Dempsey’s older sister Jennifer, a promising tennis player, passed away when he was twelve years old. The loss pushed him to work harder than ever on the pitch and when Dempsey points up after scoring, it’s a tribute to her memory.
After an illustrious high school career, Dempsey led Furman University, a small South Carolina school of less than 3,000 students to a pair of NCAA Championship appearances. Dempsey's first national team experience came with the U-20 team, where he was part of the side that made the Quarterfinals of the 2003 FIFA Youth World Championships in the United Arab Emirates.
Starring for the Stars and Stripes
Dempsey celebrates his goal against Ghana in the 2014 World Cup
From childhood, Dempsey dreamed of playing in the World Cup. Those dreams came true in 2006, when he was selected by Bruce Arena for the roster headed to that year’s World Cup in Germany. He made his presence known, scoring in the USA’s final group stage match vs. Ghana.
Deuce has starred in three World Cups (2006, 2010 and 2014), scoring a combined four goals. A marker 30 seconds into the MNT’s 2014 World Cup opener against Ghana made No. 8 the only player in MNT history to score in three World Cups. He also tallied in the American’s 1-1 draw vs. England to open the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Dempsey's first cap- a 2004 World Cup Qualifying match against Jamaica
Since his first appearance with the MNT, a World Cup Qualifying match against Jamaica in 2004, Dempsey has become the sixth-most capped player in team history. He is the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. in World Cup Qualifying (18 goals) and has scored in some of the team’s most important matches in the modern era. He found the net against Egypt, then-world No. 1 Spain and Brazil in consecutive matches during the USA’s historic run to the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup Final. Last summer, he paced the MNT with three goals and three assists en route to a Third Place finish at Copa America Centenario.
Dempsey has also been a crucial part of two Gold Cup winning rosters for the USA, helping win the competition in 2005 and 2007. He will look to add a third title on Wednesday night.
An American Striker in London
In 2004, Dempsey was drafted eighth overall by the New England Revolution in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft. A stellar freshman campaign earned him Rookie of the Year honors, but after three seasons in New England, Dempsey headed across the pond to England on the then-richest Premier League contract ever for an American at Fulham in southwest London.
There, Dempsey established himself as one of the greatest Americans to ever play in the Premiership. In a six-season run, he became the Cottagers’ all-time leading goalscorer with 50 league goals and led the team to its highest-ever English Premier League finish of 7th in 2009. The next season, Dempsey became the first American to play in a major European club final when Fulham reached the Europa League Final.
Dempsey also grabbed the EPL goal-scoring record for an American when he notched his 37th strike, surpassing former Fulham teammate Brian McBride’s previous mark. After six seasons with Fulham, Dempsey transferred to Tottenham Hotspur, where he played one season before returning stateside.
Don’t Call It a Comeback
Dempsey celebrates during the MNT's 6-0 World Cup Qualifying victory over Honduras in March
In 2013, Seattle Sounders FC executed the then-largest transfer deal in MLS history to bring Clint Dempsey back to the USA. He’s been a star for the Emerald City side, scoring 39 goals since returning to the league.
Starting last fall, Dempsey missed several months with the Sounders and MNT after he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. He feared that the condition could spell retirement, but has come back strong this year for both club and country. Dempsey notched his second career hat trick in his return to the U.S. side in a 6-0 World Cup Qualifying win against Honduras in March.
Thanks to a unique Gold Cup rule, Bruce Arena made six changes to the roster following the Group Stage, including the addition of Deuce. Dempsey joined the MNT ahead of its first Knockout Round match against El Salvador, and he’s made quite an impact – assisting on Eric Lichaj’s first international goal in the Quarterfinal and on Jozy Altidore’s game-winner in the Semifinal. Dempsey then iced the semifinal with a goal of his own. Should he score in the Gold Cup final against Jamaica, it would be a goal with numerous storylines attached as it would not only come against the team he made his international debut against but also earn him the distinction of being…
Deuce Aims to Become USA’s Number One
At last weekend’s semifinal in his home state of Texas, three hours northwest from Nacogdoches, Dempsey lined up for a free kick in the 88th minute. A curling shot to the lower, right corner gave Dempsey his 57th international score and a share of the U.S.’s all-time goal-scoring record alongside 2006 and 2010 World Cup teammate Landon Donovan. Dempsey notably assisted perhaps the most famous of Donovan’s 57 international scores, the dramatic, game-winning strike against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup that sent the USA to the knockout rounds.
Now, Dempsey has the chance to become the sole leading scorer in U.S. MNT history and help hand the U.S. its sixth Gold Cup title. Tune in at 9:30 PM ET on Wednesday, July 26 on FS1, Univision and Univision Deportes Network to see Deuce take another crack at American soccer history.
Playing in a Final is something special, and in soccer most players never even get the opportunity.
The current U.S. Men’s National Team roster that heads into Wednesday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup Final against Jamaica has a wide variety of experience in championship matches, and all have slightly different outlooks on what’s ahead against the Reggae Boyz.
One of the youngest members on the U.S. Gold Cup roster, Kellyn Acosta has played a big role in getting the MNT to Wednesday’s finale. The recently turned 22-year-old has appeared in four of the five matches and led all U.S. midfielders with 256 minutes played. Though he admitted to struggling early on in the tournament, Acosta’s performances have grown with every match, with his best coming in the USA’s 2-0 Semifinal win against Costa Rica.
“To be a part of this team going into the Gold Cup Final means everything,” he told ussoccer.com. “We put in a lot of work. We’ve been with each other for over a month, a ton of practices, traveling throughout the cities and we’ve just put a lot of effort into this. I know the guys and myself are excited for the opportunity. We’re going to give it our all and hopefully we can get the result.
While Wednesday’s game will be his first final with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Acosta has tasted victory in a championship match before, with the young midfielder anchoring the FC Dallas midfield in the club’s 4-2 win against New England Revolution to win the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Experiencing his first professional final as a 21-year-old, Acosta recalled the mentality he took going into that match.
“It was to be just 100 percent concentrated. It’s a game where a lot of emotions can run around you. I’ve only played in so many finals in my career, so just to be a part of that was definitely chilling, but I was glad to be a part of it. I didn’t want to let the emotions overwhelm me. When I got in the game, I was a little nervous at first, a little anxious, and there was a lot of adrenaline. Once the game kicked off, I just eased my way into it and thought of it as another game. I think that’s the best approach. Obviously it’s a game with a lot of magnitude, but if you go out there and stick to things you know, do what you’ve been doing, then great things will happen.”
With 38 goals, Jozy Altidore is the U.S. MNT’s third all-time leading scorer and his 16 goals in World Cup Qualifying place him second behind only Clint Dempsey. But when it’s come to featuring for the U.S. in tournaments, the striker has been marred by a series of hamstring injuries.
Since coming onto the National Team scene in late 2007, Altidore has missed out on playing a full tournament - due to injury or recovery - on four occasions. The list includes the hamstring ailment that occurred 19 minutes into the 2014 FIFA World Cup, leaving the 2011 and 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cups early and missing out all together on the USA’s run to the Semifinals of last summer’s Copa America Centenario.
While he’s appeared in a few club Finals – notably scoring in AZ Alkmaar’s 2-1 Dutch Cup win vs. PSV Eindhoven in 2013 and winning back-to-back Canadian Cups – Altidore has played in only one championship match all-time for the U.S. Men’s National Team: the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup Final, a difficult 3-2 defeat to Brazil.
“I’ve been unlucky with injuries, them being untimely, and so for me it means a lot to make it here,” Altidore told ussoccer.com. “I’ve had this tournament circled on my calendar for a lot of reasons, to get back playing with the National Team in a tournament and obviously to win something. It doesn’t come around often that you get these opportunities to win a trophy, so I’m really excited to be a part of the team. I think we have all the attributes, all the tools to make history.”
“Jamaica, as well as in the last Gold Cup, did a good job in making the Final. I expect a tough team, a tough game – a hungry team. They’re not in the Hex, they can’t qualify for the World Cup, so this is essentially a World Cup game for them. It’s a huge game, a huge opportunity for them and their Federation to make strides, so we have to be ready for a really physical team, a fast team, one that’s athletic and a team that’s going to be playing with a chip on their shoulders.”
At 38 years old, goalkeeper Tim Howard is the eldest member of the U.S. MNT’s Gold Cup roster and overall player pool. With 117 caps since 2002, Howard is as well-seasoned on the international scene as he is at the club level, having spent 13 combined seasons with Manchester United and Everton before returning to M.L.S. with Colorado Rapids last season.
“Any time you get an opportunity to play in a Final, you have to grab it with both hands,” Howard said. “You have to get that trophy because it will stick with you for a long, long time if you don’t. I’ve played in a lot of Finals in my career and haven’t won as many as I would have liked, so these moments don’t come very often – they’re important.”
Success in a final came early during his stay in England, backstopping Manchester United to a 3-0 win against Millwall in the 2003-04 FA Cup. He returned to the same match five years later with Everton, but the Blues fell 2-1 to Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.
Internationally, Howard tasted victory in one of the U.S. MNT’s biggest championship victories, defeating Mexico 2-1 in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
“That’s the icing on the cake. Any time you win a Final, the rest of it is just pure elation. You get to celebrate with your teammates and coaching staff, your loyal, dedicated fans, family and friends – it’s just the ultimate. You put so much into the tournament and it’s just this sense of relief – you’ve got all this pent up energy and anxiety and you get an opportunity to express yourself finally and lift a trophy. You realize there is no more – it’s done, it’s finished. It’s a beautiful moment.”
He’s also faced bitter defeat in a U.S. shirt, serving as the goalkeeper in the 2009 Confederations Cup loss to Brazil and 2011 Gold Cup defeat to Mexico.
That 4-2 loss to El Trí was Howard’s last appearance in a Final at any level, and looking back he pulled no punches about the disappointment.
“Disappointing is an understatement,” Howard said about the 2011 defeat. “We got our butt kicked that day and it’s never easy. You work hard for something, you put in all your effort and you come out on the losing end, it’s a tough pill to swallow. I’ve never claimed to be a good loser, I hope I never am, but those days are tough.”
As the elder statesman on the U.S. team, Howard has plenty of advice for some of the younger players that may be experiencing their first championship match on Wednesday.
“I think it has to be a fine balance when you go into a Final. Mentally you have to be focused and understand what’s at stake. I think it’s important to have that heightened sense of anxiety and knowing what that moment means, but leaning on your experience to calm the nerves if that’s possible, play within yourself and not try and do too many crazy things individually. You have to collectively be a solid group and be focused.”
Given all that the U.S. team has been through since two defeats to start Final Round FIFA World Cup Qualifying last November and the return of Bruce Arena as U.S. MNT head coach, what would a win against Jamaica on Wednesday mean?
“It would be a feather in all our caps,” Howard said. “You want to be remembered as a winner, and you can only do that by producing the goods in the big moments. I think this team is ready for it.
“A few months ago we weren’t at this point. Teams go through ups and downs and changes ultimately have to be made, but it’s good to see that not only are we playing good football, which is clearly the most important thing, but it’s also that the camaraderie in this group is very good. There’s a big mix of old – very old in my case – and some good young guys. For us to all get along together and have one vision is a testament to not only the players, but Bruce Arena and his coaching staff.”Read more