It’s been quite the journey for Clint Dempsey. From small town Texas to MLS Rookie of the Year, to England and back to MLS, and for the last 10 years a critical member of the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Clint takes us through that journey, as he becomes the 14th player in 100 years of U.S. Soccer to reach 100 caps.
ussoccer.com: When you hear 100 caps and know you will be part of that elite group, what are some of your thoughts and feelings?
Clint Dempsey: “It’s crazy to think that this will be my 100th game that I have played with the National Team. As a little kid all you want to do is get one game, so it’s been a good ride and hopefully there is more still to come.”
ussoccer.com: How do you best describe your National Team career?
CD: “I have been happy with the way it’s all went. To be able to play in two World Cups, winning a few Gold Cups, getting to the finals of the Confederations Cup is special. It’s been a great experience and hopefully we can qualify for the next World Cup and make it even better.”
ussoccer.com: What are some of the highlights of your National Team career that stand out for you over the last 10 years, especially considering that you are only the 14th player in 100 years of U.S. Soccer to achieve this milestone?
CD: “Things that jump out to me when I look back are of course my first cap against Jamaica, my first goal with the National Team against England, my first goal in the World Cup, being able to get to the Confederations Cup Final and winning our group at the last World Cup. Hopefully there will be more, but those are the ones that immediately jump out to me.”
ussoccer.com: How have you been able to maintain that edge and that hunger to continue to play well at this level?
CD: “You have to enjoy playing the game. You have to love the game because it keeps you motivated to keep going. I am a competitive person. I like winning, and that also keeps me going. I am very grateful to Bruce Arena for giving me my first cap and giving me an opportunity to play in a World Cup. To Bob Bradley for calling me in at times when I wasn’t always playing with Fulham. Being able to do some great things while he was coach and now under Jürgen who has given me the opportunity to be captain and a chance for us to keep that tradition going of qualifying for World Cups and not letting up and making sure we’re still progressing the game of soccer in this country.”
ussoccer.com: Tuesday night in Columbus your family will be there to help celebrate the occasion. Considering all that you’ve gone through starting as a kid in Nacogdoches, Texas, and how much they helped you along the way, what will that moment mean for you and your family?
CD: “Man, it will be a great moment and it’s something that I will be proud of. To say you have played 100 caps is always something special. It’s something that not a lot of people can say that they’ve done. For my parents to be there is important because they were the ones driving me back and forth to Dallas, which was three hours one way and three hours back. Those drives add up and without their sacrifice for me to go and play club ball, I wouldn’t be the player that I am today because it allowed me to get better coaching. And the fact it will be Columbus, a place where I got my first cap, makes it extra special. To celebrate that milestone there allows it to all come full circle. I couldn’t think of a better place than Columbus to celebrate with my family.”
CLINT TAKES US THROUGH SOME OF THE BIG MOMENTS AND PEOPLE ALONG THE JOURNEY TO 100 CAPS
“What pops out to me is that’s my first cap under Bruce Arena, playing against Jamaica. We had already qualified for the next round of World Cup qualifiers and of course I had the long hair then and it was a great experience for me to get my first cap.”
“That was my first goal with the U.S. It was against England in Chicago and we were losing 2-0, and my goal gave us a little hope that we could get back into the game at 2-1. It was great to open up my account for the National Team. It was a great feeling. To be able to score against top players, I don’t think it was their best eleven, but they still had a lot of top players doing well in their league over there. To get a goal against them showed that I was on that stage and I was ready for that level.”
“To me that was my most memorable moment as a professional soccer player. Being able to represent your country at a World Cup and being able to score a goal, to me that was always the dream. That was always what I thought about, what I hoped for, what I worked hard for. That moment will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was a great ball from DaMarcus Beasley and I hit the ball really sweet. I remember celebrating and that feeling of getting all of that emotion out of your body, all the stress and all the hard work. Just feeling like you are on top of the world and feeling like you can run through a brick wall. It tied the game up and gave us a little bit of hope because if we won that game we would go to the next round. Unfortunately we were not able to do that but for a little while, it gave us hope.”
“I was an up and coming kid and was surprised I got called up to the National Team as early as I did. I am grateful to Bruce Arena for giving me the opportunity and taking a chance on me. It was about me working hard and about getting into that team and see what could happen. I will always be grateful to Bruce for picking me on the team, picking me for the World Cup team, and giving me my first start in the World Cup. And for also giving me the opportunity for one of the greatest moments of my career being able to score in the World Cup. So I owe a lot to him and I appreciate that.”
“I had a good relationship with Bob. I enjoyed playing under him. He told you how he saw it. There were no secrets. He is who is, and I am the same type of guy and I was straight up with him. I learned a lot under him and I thought we did well as a team under him. Being able win the group at the World Cup was big and getting to the Confederations Cup Final was big, so I am grateful for him for also calling me in when I wasn’t playing all the time at Fulham and he would still give me that opportunity to get in with the National Team. There were times that I scored some goals that gave me that confidence that helped when I went back to England, so I will always be grateful for Bob for that.”
“It was a tournament that was crazy. We started off poorly in the sense of not getting results and conceding goals, and going into the Egypt game needing to win at least 3-0 to get into the next round. We did that, and then we had Spain who was on some crazy unbeaten run of over 30 games. We had a game plan we executed perfectly I thought. My goal was really the icing on the cake. We were winning 1-0 and it was a great ball in from Landon [Donovan] and Sergio Ramos had intercepted the ball and he took a touch looking to play out of the back. I was just able to be in the right place at the right time to pounce on it and I took him by surprise and that gave us a 2-0 lead that sealed the game for us and got us into the Confederations Cup Final when it looked like we wouldn’t even make it out of the group, so that was a great moment. It was great to beat Spain who was doing so well in a game that mattered. Getting to that Final was something special. We came up short but it was a great experience being a part of that tournament.“
“It was very important for us because we were playing against a top team like England. They had a lot of great players and actually came out and scored very quickly against us, so our backs were against the wall. To qualify for a World Cup is always difficult. It’s a long process, so when you get there you want to make the most of it, and when you conceded a goal within the first 15 minutes it was tough to take. But we were able to bounce back. I was able to get a little bit of room to get a shot off. It probably wasn’t the best shot. The goalkeeper probably should have done better with it. But at the end of the day, a goal is a goal and they all count the same. It helped get us our first point of that World Cup and gave us belief that if we could get a couple of more results we could get out of the group stage.”
“The tournament itself was a grind, especially after the second game where we went down 2-0 and clawed our way back to get a tie. We really should have gotten the win, but we had a goal called back which was so frustrating. Going into the Algeria game, we knew we needed a result to win the group and go on. I remember we had scored a goal. I believe Hercules [Gomez] gave me a pass and I was able to put it in and they called it offside and it wasn’t offside so it was just another thing we had to deal with and it seemed like it was always something. We were able to show a lot of character and keep fighting to the end. I think a reason why people think about that game so much is because the way it all went down in the final minutes to get that goal. It was a tough game, but at the same time we deserved to win that game and I thought we deserved to win the group. And that gave us that opportunity to do something special.”
“To be able to be the captain of your country is always a privilege and an honor. To captain the team in the game against Germany, which was our 100th anniversary game, was a great experience and we also got the right result after losing to Belgium a few days before and it really set us up going into qualifying on a positive note. It got Jozy scoring goals and now he’s scored in a record five straight games and got us rolling on this 12-game winning streak.”