It has been almost a week since the United States was eliminated from the World Cup at the hands of Ghana. Although they carried aspirations of advancing deep into the knockout stages, their journey should be considered a success. The team brought exposure to a game that is usually little more than an after thought in the sporting consciousness of America. The exposure could also prove lucrative for some on the US squad who may look to propel their club careers to the next level.
The most obvious benefactor is Landon Donovan. The American talisman scored three goals, including an extra-time winner against Algeria. At the age of 27 he is at the top of his game and his stock has never been higher in the eyes of the international football community. However, despite all the praise Donovan recieves as the heart and soul of Team USA , it may be one of his teammates who is more deserving of the attention.
That man is Clint Dempsey, the attacker who spent the majority of the tournament playing opposite Donovan in midfield. Although Donovan took the majority of America’s set pieces and acted as the focal point of the American attack, it was Dempsey who routinely flew through the air on the receiving end and wreaked havoc in the box. His toughness and resilience was on full display throughout the tournament, but it is his resume on the international club scene that seperates Dempsey from his fellow countrymen.
The Texas-native began his club career domestically with the New England Revolution of the MLS, where he would collect both Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honours during his three year stay. In December of 2006, Dempsey became the highest-paid American transferred overseas when signed on with Fulham of the English Premier League.
Although Dempsey’s career in West London began slowly, it has blossomed recently, seeing him tally 8 and 9 goals in each of the last two domestic campaigns. He was also a major contributor to Fulham’s surprise run to the Europa League finals, which saw him break yet another barrier as the first American to play in a European final.
However, it is not trail-blazing nature that sets Clint Dempsey apart from Landon Donovan. The continuous improvement since landing in England (his goal totals have risen every year since his arrival), is something Donovan was unable to accomplish during an uneventful spell with Bayern Leverkusen in Germany. Dempsey also appears equally adept at elevating his play on the larger stages, as evidenced by his now-famous chip, to push Fulham past Italian power Juventus and into the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
However, despite barriers broken and highlights generated, Clint Dempsey still seems like a forgotten man. Perhaps it is a product of playing with a small Fulham club that gets lost behind its heavyweight London neighbours at Arsenal and Chelsea. Perhaps it is his lack of consistent dominance, but isn’t also difficult to capture without true offensive playmakers to feed off of?
All that is known is that as the summer transfer period continues, Clint Dempsey’s name remains absent from rumours. Only small rumblings of interest from Italian side Napoli and mere thoughts of reuniting with old boss Roy Hodgson at Liverpool exist. So as Landon Donovan gets set to enter the Premier League on a full-time basis, it is Clint Dempsey who will hope to continue elevating his standing in England’s top league, even if no one is watching.