Make no mistake about it: U.S. Men’s National Team forward Clint Dempsey is a pure-bred Texan. From his southern drawl to his love for fishing and the great outdoors, Dempsey feels a sense of belonging in the Lone Star State.
But its nearly 1,000 miles north where Dempsey has recorded two of the biggest moments of his soccer career. On Tuesday at Soldier Field in Chicago, the Nacogdoches, Texas, native notched his 50th career international goal to open the scoring in the MNT’s massive 4-0 win against Costa Rica in Copa America Centenario.
Bobby Wood drew the spot kick when he was shoved from behind by a Costa Rican defender in the eighth minute of a then scoreless game. Dempsey stood at the top of the 18 and focused on the ball, so not to give the goalkeeper any indication of his plans. He stepped left and shuffled sideways once before he accelerated toward the ball and sent a low driven shot to the right. The ‘keeper dove to the left.
“It’s awesome to be a part of the 50-goal club,” Dempsey said. “It’s always good to score goals for your country. But more importantly for us to get the win and still be alive in this tournament.”
As a result of Dempsey’s goal, the U.S. is the 11th country worldwide and the first CONCACAF nation with two or more 50-goal scorers.
Beyond his own tally, “Deuce” contributed the assist on ensuing U.S. goals by Wood and Jermaine Jones, all within the first half. In this and the opening game defeat, Dempsey’s effort and commitment were evident to MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
“Clint was a warrior out there," Klinsmann said. "He gave everything he had. He was really fighting and fighting positively."
For the last year, he has earmarked this tournament as a place where he wanted to make a mark. Having grown up watching the South American championship, he knows the special opportunity here.
In the same venue 11 years prior, Dempsey notched his first international goal in his sixth overall cap and third start for the U.S. in a 2-1 loss to England on May 28, 2005.
“I remember (Carlos) Bocanegra got a header and the ‘keeper made a save,” Dempsey recalled. “It came right back to me and I was able to get a head on it. It was against England, so it was good to get my first goal against a top team like that.”
“Chicago has been good to me,” Dempsey said with a smile.