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Clint Dempsey is barely even a noticable figure at Fulham

Jan 28, 2014, 8:09 PM EST

Dempsey 2 Getty Images

It’s all going wrong for Clint Dempsey at the club level.

He was supposed to be moving upwards into the Champions League – his lifelong aspiration – when he moved to Tottenham. He hardly saw the field.

He was supposed to be escaping obscurity and moving home to help the Seattle Sounders make their deepest ever run in the MLS playoffs. They flopped down the stretch and meekly bowed out in the first round.

And now, he’s supposed to make a triumphant return to Craven Cottage, taking two months to turn things around, sharpen his game, and maybe save the club he once earned Player of the Year honors.

Except he hasn’t done any of those.

As Fulham dive further and further into the murky depths of the Premier League table, the biggest concern around the United States remains the form of their national team’s 30-year-old captain.

He hasn’t exactly played badly, but the problem is he hasn’t done anything – at all.

Since joining Fulham at the beginning of the new year, he’s played in four matches for the Premier League side – two in the league and two in the FA Cup. The Cottagers lost three of those (including a thumping by Jozy Altidore‘s relegation-threatened Sunderland), scoring a mere two goals in those games. Dempsey was involved in neither.

The scariest part of it all is that the Texas native moves around the pitch like he’s running underwater.  He has no drive, no pace, and no confidence.

It hasn’t helped that Dempsey has been an afterthought in manager Rene Meulensteen’s on-field tactics, with most of the buildup played through the wings, with players like Alex Kacaniklic and Ashkan Dejagah the focus of Fulham’s attack today in the loss to Swansea.

But Dempsey has looked like a lost child when he is involved.  Take a look at his received passes in the Premier League losses to Swansea and Arsenal:

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He’s all over the field with no clear direction, and the attacking third is an absolute wasteland. Dempsey has barely sniffed the ball in the attacking third not just in those two matches but overall at Craven Cottage. It’s disheartening not just for USMNT fans but for Fulham supporters yearning for the Dempsey of old. Instead, they have a shell of his former self.

In addition to his lack of output, Dempsey’s fitness has been an issue.  In his three Premier League matches, the midfielder was substituted out twice, in the 71st minute and 79th minute, and on both occasions it was about 10 minutes too late.

Whether he can turn things around for the MLS season is one thing, but the question is quickly becoming can Clint turn things around for the World Cup? An essential piece of Jurgen Klinsmann’s national side, a Clint Dempsey in poor form would certainly go a long way to derail the United States’ chances for even escaping their group.

Hopefully, for Fulham’s sake, for the Seattle Sounders’ sake, for the national team’s sake, and for his own personal good, Clint Dempsey can turn things around, because his subpar club performances are becoming more than just an occurrence, they’re becoming a trend.

  1. snooppp68 - Jan 28, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    Fulham is a cesspool, as long as those two idiots, Bent and Berbatov are there. LOSE EVERY GAME!!!! Viva Bryan Ruiz!!!

  2. hightopandrocket - Jan 28, 2014 at 9:48 PM

    Dempsey hit his peak, and now he’s on the decline, it happens…

    • midtec2005 - Jan 29, 2014 at 12:12 AM

      Even if that’s true, which it could be, this fall off is a bit dramatic. Clint is clearly lacking some confidence.

  3. Harrison Crow - Jan 28, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    Except that Dempsey had two great chances today and just wasn’t able to finish due to poor service one surprisingly enough from Berbatov.

    He has got himself into excellent position in the box against Sunderland showing off some technical ability and then he did so again today. While, I’ll agree with you that he’s not been at his best since arriving back with Fulham, he’s hardly had the opportunity to train and get fit. He’s being rest on odd days and then thrusted into games the next. I like Meulensteen but his management of Dempsey has been quite odd.

    • Kyle Bonn - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:18 PM

      “Dempsey had two great chances today and just wasn’t able to finish due to poor service.”

      Wait a minute…he had 2 great chances, but because of other people he couldn’t finish? Sounds like we’re making some excuses for the guy…

      Fulham have been an attacking black hole, there’s no question about it. But Clint has been a part of that black hole.

      • bear06 - Jan 29, 2014 at 10:06 PM

        Fulham aren’t the same team that they used to be from a few years ago when they were competing in the Europa League.

  4. dfstell - Jan 29, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    I’ll tell you what’s going on: He found his talent ceiling and now he is lacking for motivation.

    Athletes like Dempsey are totally driven maniacs. They thrive on reaching for the next challenge and Dempsey has always had a challenge in front of him and he’s overcome it and gone on to the next level. It’s all over his resume. He grew up in a small town, went to a small college, wasn’t really part of the US youth set-up, etc. He excelled in MLS and went to the EPL. There he kept overcoming doubters to be one of the top goalscorers in the EPL and get a move to the big club……and then he hit his ceiling. He just wasn’t quite good enough to be a big player at Spurs AND Spurs weren’t quite good enough for Champions League. It wasn’t just that the set-up at Spurs was wrong for him….they simply had better players than him and he knew it.

    That’s a tough pill to swallow for a guy who has been driven to overcome and excel his whole life. It happens to almost everyone in their career: That point where you realize you aren’t going to get all the promotions and accolades that you had dreamed of.

    So, now the things that motivated him aren’t there anymore AND his body is probably starting to betray him because he’s 30 and will always be playing in pain.

    He could have a moment of clarity and be among the best players in MLS for the next 5 years OR he could be retired in a year or two.

    • midtec2005 - Jan 29, 2014 at 8:56 AM

      This is entirely possible, I kind of felt this way too. It could also be possible that this bad spell raises a whole new pool of doubters (looks like it already has) and that could motivate him again. Hopefully for out national teams sake this is what happens and he goes on a tear for Seattle.

      • dfstell - Jan 29, 2014 at 9:41 AM

        I also hadn’t considered that Dempsey is a Gen Y. He probably doesn’t find his work “fulfilling” anymore. At some point you grow out of that nonsense and realize that it isn’t supposed to be fulfilling: That’s what the money is for. If it was work that you loved and you would do it for free, then they wouldn’t have to pay you $6MM/year to do it.

        Some folks deal this this inflection point in their careers differently than others.

        I wonder if Bradley will have the same problem. He was in exactly the same trap: Not quite good enough to be a starter on an elite team.

        I’ll bet Bradley is fine just because he seems more maniacally driven that Deuce.

  5. lyleoross - Jan 29, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Fulham is simply a testament to the notion that one man does not make a team. Nothing that Dempsey might do is going to help this team. When you can’t develop through the middle, and create opportunities going forward, then you aren’t going to get much out of a player like Dempsey. Remember that during his last stint he had, Dembele, who created beautifully for the team and created many opportunities for Clint. Lest you doubt take a look at what Dembele is doing for Tottenham.

    Soccer is a team sport, and right now, Fulham isn’t much of a team. No matter good or bad, Dempsey isn’t going to carry this team on his back any more than JA is carrying Sunderland on his. Both are decent players, and in the right setting will perform.

  6. charliej11 - Jan 29, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    Four words, “I told you so”

    The problem isn’t Clint. The problem is wasting a career playing for second tier teams in first division England.
    He plays for Seattle now….so play for Seattle, they are in the middle of winter training….rather than on a team in the middle of another blah season where the players lost interest many months ago.

  7. nightwind15 - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    His drive is gone, he does not get into advantageous positions and struggles to find space due to his pace. He has done the right thing in coming home because of the money and his family. Riding the bubble for a time is great but with his talent and physical ability that bubble has likely burst. It was fun while it lasted and thanks for the memories.

  8. boscoesworld - Jan 30, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    You always hear “getting back to fitness” when it comes to Clint. When he went to Seattle he had just come off of training in England and should have been plenty fit. When he went back to England he had just come off of the MLS season and it shouldn’t take him forever to get “fit”. Something other than fitness is at play. A professional in any sport shouldn’t be so out of fitness at any given time of the year.

    • nightwind15 - Feb 5, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      I totally agree. There is more to his slump than fitness. He is likely going to fill a spot on the 23 man roster and I am not so sure he deserves it any more.

  9. Meher Baba Music - Feb 3, 2014 at 12:02 AM

    I haven’t actually seen Dempsey recently, but I don’t think we should be as worried as the author of the article. He scored two against Germany last year, one world class, and as for Tottenham, he had one game winner and one tying goal against Man U., so his cache cannot be hurt by a temporary lapse in form. Him and Jozy and Bradley and Landon will make our best offense ever, but it is our defense that really needs to step up a notch for the cup. If it was the old format of 24 teams with the top third place teams advancing instead of the top two in the 32 team format, we would have a much better chance. With this group, we are going to have to be very, very lucky to advance, kind of like Poland tying Korea to advance us in 2002. Ghana tying Portugal might be just the present we need.

  10. nightwind15 - Feb 5, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    I am more concerned with his contribution to the US team. He is in no way what a captain should be on a team. He is introverted in his on field behavior and there are at least five other players that deserve it more. His form is and has been so poor of late that my biggest fear is that he will take the place of someone who can actually be a force and score goals in Brazil.

  11. sollya - Feb 9, 2014 at 3:08 AM

    He’s too good and not old enough to justify the down streak or a lack of confidence. I don’t want this to be the case but he needs a compete check up see if something’s wrong. The weight loss, haggard look concerns me. Even my nurse/soccer fan has noticed he looks unwell. He mentioned too tired after playing to work out much. Not normal. It could be corrected quickly most likely by a doc. He did have flu/illness at Seattle intro. Just wore him down? Other than family and fishing is he doing something unhealthy? Singing in bars late at night? Hope not family issues, that could make someone very down. He does come through in a pinch w national team most of time but needs to take care of health. Wish I knew bc he’s great, doesn’t make sense.

  12. sollya - Feb 9, 2014 at 3:20 AM

    If psychological Donovan could help. He needed a bit of time off and now does yoga, finds ways to be at peace, be motivated again. Back strong & focused.

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