Skip to content

Clint Dempsey to Fulham: A fake FAQ with real answers about the U.S. captain’s loan

Dec 25, 2013, 1:07 AM EDT

clint_dempsey Reuters

Let’s pretend you didn’t know Clint Dempsey was going back to Fulham. Or maybe you’re a Premier League fan that doesn’t follow Major League Soccer, an MLS fan that can’t be bothered with England, or a United States Men’s National Team diehard that just wants to know what “Deuce” has gotten himself into. You may even be the one person who still loves a good FAQ.

Regardless, we’re here to help. With the U.S. captain returning to Fulham, this is as good a time as any to take inventory of what it means, what to expect, and what each party gets out of the deal. How does this benefit Dempsey? Fulham? Seattle, the U.S., and Major League Soccer? There are so many parties to this one, it’s hard to keep track of who has skin in the game.

In what’s likely a futile attempt to address all the issues in one place, here’s a list of real answers to imaginary questions. We start with the basics:

Who this Clint Dempsey you speak of?

Get out.

Well, I know who Clint Dempsey is. But I’m trying to make a point. Why should I care about this loan?

Nobody’s asking this, but you don’t have to go far to find somebody in Electron Land who referencing Dempsey’s struggles with Seattle the throw shade on the importance of this move. To that, we retort:

  • This is the captain of a confederation champion, a team that will be at World Cup 2014. Did we have to point this out? And if we were writing for a Japanese audience, you’d be certain we giving Keisuke Honda’s move to Milan more attention. (Seriously: I should have written something more on that.)
  • That team happens to be the U.S.A. People tend to pay attention. Especially around these parts.
  • Over Dempsey’s final three years Premier League season, he averaged 12 goals per campaign. And it’s not like this guy’s a No. 9. That’s 12 goals from what’s essentially a supporting striker/attacking midfielder. That’s a goal every 234 minutes or 14.6 during a full 38-game season. So yeah, he was kind a good at goals, and stuff.
  • This is a Cottagers legend returning home. Nobody’s scored more Premier League goals for Fulham. The especially bitter Fulham faithful may remember him forcing a move to Tottenham. Most are relishing the chance to get some goals back, because …
  • Fulham needs help. The Cottagers are in 19th. They’ve scored 17 goals in as many games, and their best attacker (Dimitar Berbatov) is a daily feature in rumor roundups in three countries.

source:

How many games should we expect to him play?

Fulham’s announcement doesn’t specify an exact date Dempsey will return to Seattle, but let’s take them at their word and assume Feb. 24 will be his last day in West London. That makes him eligible for a whopping 11 games, starting with Fulham’s visit to Norwich on Thursday:

  • Dec. 26, at Norwich City*
  • Dec. 28, at Hull City*
  • Jan. 1, vs. West Ham
  • Jan. 4, at Norwich City (FA Cup)
  • Jan. 18, at Arsenal
  • Jan. 28, at Swansea City
  • Feb. 1, vs. Southampton
  • Feb. 9, at Manchester United
  • Feb. 12, vs. Liverpool
  • Feb. 22, at West Bromwich Albion

There are also FA Cup dates on Jan. 25 and Feb. 15. Maxed out, Dempsey could play 13 games for Fulham, though that means making an appearance at Carrow Road on Boxing Day.

* – It’s unlikely Dempsey will be registered to play these two games, with the transfer window officially opening on Jan. 1. The video below (spoiler) is iffy on it, with the interviewer hinting it’s a possibility while Dempsey only discussion traveling to the games. As one commenter astutely pointed out, however, one English outlet (the BBC) is reporting he will be ineligible until 2014, so asterisks for all!

Assuming he’ll play, where here will he play?

Interesting assumption. Where you trying to slip that past me, Imaginary Question Asker? Regardless, let’s put that aside for a second and revisit how Dempsey was being used when he left Craven Cottage.

Over his last two years at Fulham, Dempsey went from an almost exclusively wide role to somebody who began seeing more time through the middle, especially later in games. He’d start on the left, play wide until Mark Hughes or Martin Jol started making changes, then move in. Once it became clear Andy Johnson was out of gas, Pavel Pogrebnyak or Bobby Zamora weren’t going to get goals, or the Cottagers just needed Dempsey’s presence in the middle of the park, “Deuce” became as much as a focal point out coming of the back as an opportunist in the final third.

source: Getty Images

If Dimitar Berbatov stays at Fulham, Dempsey’s natural place would be one of the Cottager’s other two attacking roles. If the Bulgarian moves in the January window, however, Dempsey could find himself as an option through the middle. (Photo: Getty Images)

But with Martin Jol gone, it’s unclear how Fulham will play, let alone how they’ll use Dempsey. Over their last three games, Fulham’s use one forward and two wide attackers on top of a three-man midfield, and while Dempsey would be best-suited for one of the wide roles, René Meulensteen’s selections hint he could play through the middle. With Darren Bent still getting limited time while Dimitar Berbatov’s hurt, Dempsey could occupy the lead attacker’s role Adel Taarabt played this weekend, with small army of players (Kieran Richardson, Ashkan Dejagah, Alexander Kacaniklic, Pajtim Kasami, Bryan Ruiz, and Taarabt) as flanking options.

But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. First, Dempsey has to show up and work his way into the team, something that may require him getting back into playing shape. Fulham may be struggling for points, but they’re not short of options in Dempsey’s spots. Although his history at Craven Cottage hints Dempsey will likely get playing time, that history may prove irrelevant with a new squad playing under a new coach.

What should we expect, production-wise?

This should really be the last question, right? Screw it. I’m skipping to it. Fulham fans are hoping for the player who scored 29 goals in 74 games over his final two seasons in West London. Others will remember Dempsey scoring a more modest seven times in 29 games for Spurs, while true pessimists are looking at one goal in 12 games for Seattle and projecting a face plant for Deuce’s Premier League return.

For a number of reasons, we can throw the Seattle numbers out the window. Dempsey was never truly healthy, he was playing a role that doesn’t exist at Fulham (tip of a midfield diamond), and the Sounders were in chaos.

A better “guestimate” would look at last Fulham seasons as the best case scenario, note it was two years ago, and see his Tottenham days as a slight return to earth. But that even return to earth (a goal every 285 league minutes) wasn’t such as big drop off from his Fulham heights (a goal every 221 minutes during his final two seasons).

If Dempsey plays 10 games, averaging 75 minutes per, and performs to his capabilities, we’re looking at around three goals. At least, that’s the kind of output his final three Premier League seasons suggest.

So what does this all mean for Dempsey …

Remember: The goal here is to stay sharp, getting some playing time at a top level in during a World Cup year. In that respect, the numbers don’t matter. Whether he scores eight goals or none, the point is to build toward Brazil.

If he gets regular playing time, that’s practically mission accomplished. While keeping his spot means he’ll probably have to produce, the merits of those numbers are for René Meulensteen to decide. The most important number when gauging this loan’s success will be minutes played.

… the U.S. National Team,

Given Jurgen Klinsmann wants his MLS players to stay active, this looks like plus for the national team. But there’s another way to look at it. Fulham’s loan spell gives Dempsey, a 30-year-old not lacking in professional experience, two months worth of injury exposure.

source: Getty Images

U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has encouraged his MLS-based players to go out on winter loans, with Dempsey having negotiated a clause in Seattle contract that allowed this winter’s move.. (Photo: Getty Images)

Is that worth it for a player unlikely to improve during the loan? Let’s hold on to that thought.

You always have to balance training against risk, but MLS would give Dempsey three months of competition before the national team assembled for Brazil. Add in the January national team camp and preseason training in February, and Dempsey wasn’t looking at much of an offseason to begin with. This whole idea that players have to go to Europe to stay fresh during the winter break should really get more scrutiny.

Now, back to that thought. Dempsey’s situation is slightly unique. He needs to get his groove back, and for a player that went through a rough return to MLS, West London is Jamaica. And Fulham may be Taye Diggs.

Dempsey doesn’t just need to stay in shape. He’s a key to U.S. success in Brazil. He needs to recapture his form, and in that sense, given what he did in 2009-10 and 2010-11, there was no better offseason destination than Craven Cottage.

… Fulham,

This is a low-risk chance for a team to get the club’s most productive Premier League back for two months (insert non-existent “no duh” emoji here). Worst case scenario: He takes playing time from somebody contributing to the team’s 19th place standing. Best case scenario: He goes on another tear, scored five or six times, and helps his former club snare points that could save them from the second division.

… Major League Soccer,

Nothing. At least, it’s unclear this means anything good or bad for MLS. Some will see this as a talent  wanting to test himself against competition the league can’t provide. Others will see it as MLS having players the rest of the world still covets. More likely: This is a very specific situation for a somewhat unique player, rendering any broad conclusions meaningless.

… and the Seattle Sounders?

Nothing good, but they knew what they were getting into. They won’t see their most important attacking player until late February. When he returns, he’ll be plopped into a role he didn’t play at Fulham – the most important position in Seattle’s attack (assuming Sigi Schmid stays with a diamond midfield). In a role he struggled with last season, Dempsey will out of practice and unfamiliar with a number of new players around him.

Then, Seattle will lose him again for chunk of the middle of the season. When he returns from Brazil, Dempsey will have played soccer in 21 of the previous 24 months, with the three-month MLS homestretch coming into view. And given the U.S. National Team doesn’t use the same setup as the Sounders, Dempsey will again have to re-adjust to his place behind Seattle’s strikers (assuming he doesn’t master the role between March and May).

That sounds bad, and it’s even worse when you consider how much Seattle’s paying Dempsey this year. Still, MLS’s is a long season. Assuming they can make the playoffs, the Sounders only need to get things together November. Dempsey’s absence (along with Brad Evans’) met force them to focus on that goal.

As their run to first in the West last season showed, a slow start need undermine the campaign. And as their October collapse affirmed, it’s more important to be playing well at the end of the season than in the middle.

Do you have a video of Clint talking about the move? Maybe one where they make him say something awkward and Texas-y at the end?

Kinda. This is via Fulham’s YouTube account:

Latest Posts
  1. FIFA ethics committee bans 11 current, former officials from all football-related activities

    May 27, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT

    Sepp Blatter & Jeffrey Webb, FIFA Sepp Blatter & Jeffrey Webb, FIFA

    11 current and former officials from around the world have been provisionally banned from all football-related activities.

  2. Men in Blazers podcast: Mourning the end of the season with The True Geordie

    May 27, 2015, 5:23 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo relive the Premier League’s season finale, including squeaky bum time at the bottom of the table.

  3. Sevilla defeat Dnipro, 3-2, to win back-to-back Europa League titles, Champions League place

    May 27, 2015, 4:42 PM EDT

    Carlos Bacca, FC Sevilla Getty Images

    It was a thrilling Europa League final. Sevilla are back-to-back Europa League champions, and into next year’s Champions League.

  4. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Top ten forwards

    May 27, 2015, 4:32 PM EDT

    Aguero Getty Images

    Sergio Aguero was the Premier League’s top goalscorer this season, but was he the best attacker in the league? He has plenty of competition.

  5. Dick Advocaat will not return to Sunderland next season

    May 27, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT

    After leading the Black Cats to Premier League safety, “The Little General” has announced he won’t return to the Stadium of Light next season.

  6. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Top ten midfielders

    May 27, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea FC Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea FC

    Goal scorers, goal creators, ball winners, possession destroyers — the list of top-10 midfielders has a little bit of everything.

  7. UEFA calls for postponement of FIFA presidential election, threatens to boycott congress

    May 27, 2015, 2:43 PM EDT

    Michel Platini Michel Platini

    “Today’s events are a disaster for FIFA and tarnish the image of football as a whole. “

  8. FIFA president Sepp Blatter releases first statement since overnight arrests

    May 27, 2015, 2:17 PM EDT

    ISRAEL-FBL-UEFA-EUR-SPORT ISRAEL-FBL-UEFA-EUR-SPORT

    The most controversial figure in world soccer has broken his silence.

  9. Ashley Westwood says Arsenal will have “sleepless nights” over Christian Benteke

    May 27, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Everton- Premier League Aston Villa v Everton- Premier League

    If Aston Villa wants any shot at beating Arsenal in the FA Cup final this Saturday, Christian Benteke must come up big.

  10. Three things we learned from the US Department of Justice news conference on the FIFA investigation

    May 27, 2015, 1:06 PM EDT

    Loretta Lynch Loretta Lynch

    “This really is the World Cup of fraud, and today we are issuing FIFA a red card.”

  11. QPR is cleaning house: Barton, Ferdinand, Zamora all out at Loftus Road

    May 27, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    With the Hoops heading down to the Championship, Queens Park Rangers will have a completely new look next season.

  12. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Top ten defenders

    May 27, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

    150527-John-Terry Getty Images

    They say defense wins championships, so expect to see quite a bit of Chelsea blue on this list.

  13. Report: Chelsea’s Christian Atsu to join Bournemouth on season-long loan

    May 27, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT

    FBL-WC-2014-GHA-PRESSER FBL-WC-2014-GHA-PRESSER

    Atsu spent this season on loan at Everton, and it looks like the Ghanaian will be headed south to the Premier League’s newest club.

  14. FIFA presidential elections will go on Friday despite arrests

    May 27, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    FBL-FIFA-BLATTER FBL-FIFA-BLATTER

    Sepp Blatter has served as president for 17 years and is expected to easily win reelection.

  15. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Top ten goalkeepers

    May 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 20:  (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) David de Gea of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Aon Training Complex on March 20, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Let’s take a walk through the six yard box with the Premier League’s 10 best ‘keepers for 2014-15.

  16. FIFA releases statement regarding arrests, says it is “fully cooperating” with investigations

    May 27, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    FIFA Getty Images

    A press conference is scheduled to be held at 10:30 a.m. ET from the U.S. Department of Justice.

  17. Manchester City friendly vs. Houston Dynamo in doubt following deadly floods

    May 27, 2015, 7:52 AM EDT

    US-WEATHER-FLOOD US-WEATHER-FLOOD

    Texas has been hit with massive flooding that has left at least 19 dead, as soccer takes a backseat.

  18. FBI, US Department of Justice issues damning statement on FIFA, details corruption investigation

    May 27, 2015, 6:55 AM EDT

    Loretta Lynch, Vanita Gupta, Ron Davis Loretta Lynch, Vanita Gupta, Ron Davis

    Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch speaks about the FBI’s investigation into widespread allegations of corruption at FIFA.

  19. Nine FIFA officials, including CONCACAF president, arrested in Switzerland during dawn raids

    May 27, 2015, 5:20 AM EDT

    CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb was arrested in Switzerland. Getty Images

    FIFA officials from CONCACAF region and South America dominate the FBI’s wanted list.

Featured video

Chelsea lift the 2014-15 PL trophy