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Clint Dempsey’s failed loan won’t affect his chances of success in Seattle, Brazil

Feb 12, 2014, 11:04 PM EDT

Dempsey Getty Images

So Clint Dempsey didn’t dress for Fulham today. Again. That’s two matches in a row “Deuce” hasn’t made the team, with potential descriptions of his last appearance ranging from ineffective to embarrassing. Search last December’s version of the internet, find the most pessimistic scenario you can for Dempsey’s loan, and you won’t see one curmudgeon willing to predict it would be this bad. Right now, Dempsey’s only silver lining is his health.

For the diehard U.S. Men’s national team fan, it’s tempting to blame the last place Cottagers, but excluding Dempsey was the right move. After losing at home in the FA Cup to a third-tier club, Fulham boss René Meulensteen was desperate for solutions, ones that will extend beyond Dempsey’s time in West London. Beyond the U.S. captain’s fledgling performance, a now impending departure meant Demspey-centric solutions would be counter productive. Even if he started playing well, Meulensteen would have to go back to the drawing board in March having lost time to find a solution that would last through May. Ultimately, Dempsey just ran out of time.

Within the scope of this summer’s World Cup, Fulham’s are secondary concerns. The bottom line is performance, and there’s no question about it: Dempsey hasn’t performed well in his Premier League return. Worryingly, he also didn’t perform well last season with Seattle, and while he was fine in 2012-13 with Tottenham, he didn’t carry over the production that won him a move from Fulham.

In hindsight, it was always unlikely Dempsey was going to put up those numbers in North London, and a change of role under André Villas-Boas didn’t help. Still, it’s hard to see Dempsey’s play since leaving Craven Cottage as anything but three steps backwards. His production dropped at Spurs, then again with Seattle, and now he’s not even playing with Fulham.

That’s the bad news. The relative good news: Dempsey’s performance in West London will probably have no bearing on his chances of turning it around in Seattle. And when we’re talking about being prepared for the World Cup, these next two-plus months with the Sounders are going to be much more important than his training and fitness exercise with Fulham.

source: AP

In 15 appearances for Seattle in 2013, Clint Dempsey scored once. In seven appearances during his loan with Fulham, the U.S. Men’s National Team captain has failed to add to his club-record 50 Premier League goals. (Photo: AP.)

Even if Dempsey had scored five goals during his time with the Cottagers, the challenges he’s be facing in Seattle would be the same. Sigi Schmid still needs to figure out how to use him, preferably in a role that doesn’t require Dempsey to be the first guy receiving the ball out of the defensive third. Dempsey still needs to adjust to whatever role Schmid defines, and perhaps most importantly, Dempsey needs to go from being a complementary part at Spurs (and during this spell at Fulham) to somebody who can be the focal point of a team – something you can argue he’s never been at club level. Even his best days at Fulham saw him as a highly productive opportunist, not somebody inherently expected to put a team on his shoulders.

And by put a team on his shoulders, I mean be the man who is expected to do something positive to tilt a game in his team’s favor. Let’s take the clichés out of it and define what it means on the field. In those moments when Seattle needs to be productive going forward — when everything you drew up on the white board goes out the window — the Sounders need to be able to depend on Dempsey the same way Real Salt Lake depends on Javier Morales, the LA Galaxy depends on Landon Donovan, or the Portland Timbers depend on Diego Valeri (to go through Seattle’s Western Conference rivals). In 2014, Dempsey needs to be that type of player.

No matter how Dempsey performed with Fulham, he was still going to have to adjust to his role with the Sounders. Success may have given him momentum to carry into the Major League Soccer season; more likely, Dempsey’s going to touch down in Seattle, be in an entirely new environment, and see a whole new set of challenges. Beyond being physically fit, nothing about his time in Fulham was going to help him adjust to life with the Sounders.

His return to West London has been a failure, but in the context of what’s come over the next five months, it’s a very limited one. The real test comes when he returns to the Sounders. That’s where the U.S. captain will really be preparing for this summer’s World Cup. If those preparations go well, Dempsey’s struggles with Fulham will be less than an afterthought.

  1. hildezero - Feb 13, 2014 at 12:09 AM

    Deuce is second best player if not THE best player both in Fulham and with the US team. He’s just in a slump that’s all. But it kinda seems like he’s lost faith in himself when he went to Spurs. A lot of players go through that, too. When they’re playing well in their clubs and they become too confident in themselves that they feel that can play in a bigger role for a bigger club.

    • jay1934 - Feb 13, 2014 at 12:49 PM

      Dempsey has been in a slump since he went to Seattle and definitely didn’t earn his big bucks. If he didn’t make the team in England he doesn’t deserve to be on the U.S. national team let alone be captain.

      • bear06 - Feb 14, 2014 at 12:24 AM

        Dempsey might lose his starting spot and the captains armband if his poor form continues, but saying that he doesn’t deserve to be on the U.S. MNT is ludicrous.

      • sollya - Feb 15, 2014 at 2:18 AM

        Injuries are not the same as being in a slump. Most forget he was playing with injuries.

  2. seanb20124 - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:48 AM

    No one knows when they are done. Dempsey could be done, time will tell

  3. dfstell - Feb 13, 2014 at 7:50 AM

    I’m concerned. I didn’t think he was that great for Spurs. I mean, he wasn’t terrible for Spurs, but he had little pockets of nice performance and then a lot of games he would disappoint in. Then he was poor for Seattle. We were left to wow over things like a “really nice turn on the ball”. He hasn’t been a beast for the USMNT either. When was the last time Deuce had a complete, 90 minute excellent performance. You know….the kind of performance people would give him an 8/10 for? It’s been a few years, right?

    So…..I’m optimistic, but I’m also concerned that he may be shot as a player and will never be great again.

  4. el timo - Feb 13, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    At his present level of foot speed and quickness on the ball, Dempsey will be a liability for USMNT this summer. I’ve always loved his heart, but I’d rather see a fast no-name kid out there than an aging legend. Give Dempsey some minutes just to show the kids what “fight” looks like.

  5. midtec2005 - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    He just needs to play the correct role in a team. He has always preferred playing underneath the striker… but from what I’ve watched that isn’t where he is best. He needs to be doing one of two things, poaching goals up front (note: you can’t do this without service! Fulham…), or cutting in from the left wing.

    • midtec2005 - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:20 AM

      I thought his best performances at Spurs were when he played on the left. He just couldn’t play in that spot for them a lot because they didn’t have a good enough left back, to provide width since he was cutting inside. Both the U.S. and Seattle have left backs that get forward, I think that’s where he should be playing. He causes teams fits when he does this.

      • bear06 - Feb 14, 2014 at 12:22 AM

        Dempsey has done his best for the U.S. under JK as the false #9 under Jozy. I see Klinsmann sticking with him there unless his poor form continues.

    • sollya - Feb 15, 2014 at 2:17 AM

      Not sure where he should play but it’s a critical point and makes a big difference. Also depends on skills/roles of others on team, how best to use him.

  6. jay1934 - Feb 13, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    I think Dempsey should be thinking about retiring.

    • bear06 - Feb 14, 2014 at 12:22 AM


  7. player169 - Feb 13, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    Retirement, lol. Too funny. He has plenty left in him. He does need to be pushed though…fitness or lack of hustle…a good coach needs to correct his aggressiveness. He will be fine for the WC…

    • sollya - Feb 15, 2014 at 2:15 AM

      He wasn’t able to perform well at Seattle due to illness & then 2 injuries. He began late in season as well. Even Neymar took a while, months to adjust to Barcelona. Dempsey will get into sync within a couple of games now.

  8. charliej11 - Feb 13, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    I haven’t even read the story yet. The headline is 100% wrong.

    His failed or not failed time (who cares) in England completely hurt play for Seattle this year.
    His teamates are practicing…for a real season…together. He should be too. Instead he decided to go play with a bunch of guys that have given up, don’t care, or both.

    His teamates are learning to play as a team.
    Not wasting their time in completely 100% meaningless games and hurting his teams chemistry.

  9. charliej11 - Feb 13, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    Well I agree with the body of your message more.

    He needs to be able to be the man, like he will need to be in Seattle and for the Nat team….another reason why he shouldn’t waste his time on a bottom feeder in England. There is no man needed, the season is already done and has been done since….forever.

    The pressure that MLS brings is what makes the league great. Almost an orginal idea in soccer these days, but you are actually trying to win something.

    Just another reason, why it was such a dumb idea to waste part of your career over there while playing for the Sounders.
    Some idiot bloggers wanted it to be a “testing of yourself against the best”…but of course it wasn’t. It was, predictably, a wasting of his time in an unfair competition, where very few care, and most of those drop out half way through the season.

  10. cmchambre - Feb 14, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    Here is the thing. If he is out of form and someone else is in form, then the proper and professional thing to do is drop him. Aname is just a name, he needs to show what he is doing now to warrant a spot on the National team.

  11. - Feb 14, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    8 game loan was never good for Fulham and my guess is they’re ending this early because they need to start looking at long termed solution.

  12. sollya - Feb 15, 2014 at 2:09 AM

    Fulham is not the best measure for a variety of reasons. He didn’t transfer out on a good note, plus only natural for coach to allow regular players more time. There are new players that take time to jell with. Seattle would be a better measure except for some bad luck beyond is control. When he begin near end of season, he had a flu like illness, very ill. Then hamstring and sprained ankle injuries. He apparently played with the injuries, shows grit, determination to report for duty, if not the safest thing to do, or to be able to heal. The pain must have limited his game. Another injury in November. Neymar sprained his ankle at Barca, acted like it was broken or smashed. He took several weeks off, no one’s criticizing him for that.

    Let’s look at him when he’s back. I’d limit his time against Portland. Some of their tackles were ugly, more NFL football mentality than beautiful game defensive skill. Team must point out yellow/red cards and back up fouled players. Portland was quick to do that but not Seattle when CD fouled. Jean-Baptiste got yellow card, CD was appealing for red -alone. Must keep him healthy. His 2013 USNMT record speaks for itself. I think he’ll have a good 2014.

  13. sollya - Feb 15, 2014 at 2:21 AM

    I agree with you Richard, you know the man and situations well apparently. Much better article then one on him over at MLS a few days ago.

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