With sole possession of an important U.S. scoring record just one goal away, veteran U.S. forward Clint Dempsey returned to the squad this week ahead of a pair of pivotal World Cup Qualifying matches against Guatemala. Tied for the most all-time U.S. World Cup Qualifying goals, Dempsey’s re-emergence provides a huge boost to the MNT’s bid to sew up a place in the final round of World Cup Qualifying during the next week.
“I’ve enjoyed my time with the National Team and every time I’ve got called up to camp and played in games, I’ve had the same mentality,” Dempsey said. “I’ve played my best, I’ve left everything out on the field and if you get opportunities to play, you continue in the same way. I don’t think that just because you have a little time off that you would change. For me, I’ve always treated it the same, wanted to make the most of the games I was a part of and tried to make an impact.”
With 48 goals in 120 international appearances, Dempsey is one of the most impactful U.S. players of all-time. Tied for the team’s all-time lead in World Cup Qualifying goals – he and Landon Donovan both have 13 to their credit – Dempsey also knows what it takes to get the job done against Guatemala, having scored five goals against los Chapines, four of which have come in his last three games against the Central American nation.
That experience will be key in helping lead a roster full of players that haven’t yet played a match in Guatemala, and Dempsey knows there’s no better preparation than what comes first-hand.
“You really don’t know what things are going to be like until you’re actually there and experience it for yourself. It’s a passionate crowd, wanting their team to do well and sometimes dealing with difficult conditions, dealing with travel, that’s part of qualifying for the World Cup. That’s why it’s so difficult, but it’s also so rewarding when you’re able to qualify for a World Cup. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a difficult game, but that’s part of the experience I think.”
The team’s goal for the next two matches is six points, which would likely clinch a berth for the U.S. to the final round Hexagonal with two games to spare. Beyond having some breathing room in Qualifying, Dempsey says a pair of wins would give the U.S. momentum heading into this summer’s historic Copa America Centenario.
“You always want to make sure that you qualify for major competitions and it’s a major step forward, getting closer to qualifying for the World Cup. You want to be performing well going into Copa America because it’s a major tournament as well and it’s an opportunity to do something great on home soil.”
First things first though. When Dempsey and his teammates take the field in Guatemala City, it’ll be the first time the full MNT wears the newly unveiled U.S. Soccer crest in a match. Though the National Team’s look has changed, according to Dempsey, the responsibility remains the same.
“It’s an honor to put on the crest and represent your country. You want to do it in the right way. It’s exciting to be a part of wearing the new badge, but at the same time you have to represent, you have to do it justice.”