Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
As the U.S. Men’s National Team pushed on for an insurance goal against Costa Rica, it was becoming increasingly evident that Clint Dempsey was running out of gas.
It did not matter. Dempsey had already made his mark.
With the U.S. in desperate need of a win against Los Ticos on Friday night to alleviate the mounting pressure that had befallen the Americans, it was Dempsey who once again came through in a big way. The U.S. captain delivered the winner in the 1-0 victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., scoring an early first-half goal that set the tone for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men in blizzard-like conditions.
The goal – which came after a Jozy Altidore shot was deflected by Roy Miller into the path of Dempsey in the 16th minute – was not only huge for the Americans’ confidence as they tried to settle into a game that was more snow fight than soccer. But it also gave Dempsey 12 goals all-time in World Cup qualifying, a total that ties him with Landon Donovan.
Making Dempsey’s goal-scoring production – arguably one of the only constants in the Klinsmann era – even more impressive is that he has scored that many in 11 less games than Donovan. Dempsey currently has a dozen qualifying goals in 28 matches while Donovan has the same amount in 37.
Yes, Dempsey has been deployed further up the field in his U.S. career more often than Donovan has in his. But Donovan has represented the Americans for four more years than Dempsey, who is somewhat surprisingly now just seven caps shy of the coveted 100-mark.
Regardless of the comparisons, Dempsey continues to perform and come through in the clutch for the United States. In this cycle alone, Dempsey has scored seven times in qualifying, tying him for fourth-most in CONCACAF and putting him well ahead of the second-leading scorer on the U.S. team (Carlos Bocanegra, Herculez Gomez and Eddie Johnson all have two apiece).
Dempsey has scored against Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda, Guatemala, Honduras and now Costa Rica, and there are no signs of him slowing down. Indeed, he was fatigued on Friday night but that was understandable given that he recently returned from an injury.
Now Dempsey will set his sights on adding to his scoring total on Tuesday night. The U.S. visit Azteca Stadium to take on archrivals Mexico, one of the few CONCACAF teams that Dempsey has yet to find the back of the net against.
You can be assured that El Tri will try to negate Dempsey just as other teams have tried to in the past. But if Dempsey’s recent form for the U.S. is any indication of anything, it’s that he has no problem stepping up to the plate, no matter how big of a challenge he’s up against.