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Dempsey continuing to adjust to new role under Klinsmann

ClintDempseyRed (Getty)


HARRISON, N.J. — The U.S. men's national team is still a work in progress under new head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. That much was made obvious during the last two friendlies against Honduras and Ecuador.

What may have been just as obvious is how well Clint Dempsey is adapting to a new role in the more attack-oriented system Klinsmann is implementing, even if things aren't perfect yet.

Dempsey was one of the bright spots in both October friendlies, where he was paired up top with a striker but given the responsibilities to create chances. Against Honduras in Miami Gardens, Fla., Dempsey proved to be a handful with his creativity off the dribble, and he scored the decisive goal in a 1-0 win. He also scored what looked to be a clean second goal, but it was called back for a foul. His creativity was evident when the Americans faced Ecuador at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday night, though his contributions were limited in the second half.

"Last game, I felt good. This game, especially in the first half, I had a lot of fun," said Dempsey, who along with Tim Howard and Kyle Becerkman played every minute in the last two friendlies. "Second half, a little bit frustrated. I would like to impact the game a little bit more, get on the ball, found it a little more difficult.

"But still saying that, I got myself in a good position towards the end of the game, but the guy made a good sliding tackle, which caused the ball to go out for a corner. I'm happy with the way I'm playing, happy with the way the team's playing, we're just frustrated we didn't get the result."

Failing to get a result has been common in Klinsmann's first five games in charge, with the Americans dropping three of them, all by the score of 1-0.

Scoring goals has been one of the main reasons for that, the U.S. team having found the back of the net just twice through the first 450 minutes under Klinsmann.

With Dempsey leading the attack against Ecuador as a creator in the No. 10 role, the Americans appeared like they were ready to have their first multi-goal game. But, as has been the case, shots couldn't be converted into goals.

"I thought first half we played very well. I thought we caused them a lot of problems," said Dempsey. "I thought we got into a lot of good positions, created a lot of good chances, we just couldn't put it into the back of the net.

Things got worse in the second half for the United States, as the Ecuadorians won more possession and tightened up defensively. The Americans also made four substitutions at halftime, which were followed by two more as the game wore on.

Those two factors caused the Americans problems, as they were unable to create chances as easily as they did in the opening 45 minutes.

"I think they did a better job of packing it in, there weren't as many holes," said Dempsey. "Also, I think we lost a little bit of our rhythm after making so many changes, but you've got to do that to figure out what your best Xi is going to be."

Going forward, Dempsey is undoubtedly in that best XI . His creativity, technique and ability to make something out of nothing make him a valuable asset to a U.S. team that doesn't have many seasoned quality options at its disposal.

"I'm encouraged to go express myself and get forward and try to create chances and try to have the team create goals," Dempsey said.

Dempsey's contributions on Tuesday were limited in the second half, and he admits he was frustrated by his inability to make more of an impact in the final 45 minutes.

But while Dempsey continues to adjust to his new role, teammates on the U.S. team know that even in the moments when he's not as active, Dempsey can provide a moment of magic, just as he did when he scored the winner against Honduras on Saturday night (he also had a second goal questionably called off).

"When you look at our team, the last four, five, six years, Clint has played a huge role and Clint has come through for us on a lot of big days," said Michael Bradley. "Clint is a guy that we know is going to be ready to give everything he has every time he steps on the field."


  1. IMHO it’s about time we explored building this team around Dempsey and not Donovan or Bradley. This is nothing against the aformentioned players, who are both great and default starters, but Deuce most closely resembles the kind of player that embodies the attacking style JK is articulating. He is the most creative and imaginative player we have.

    As for the most often articulated reasons why this shouldn’t be… he’s “Tempermental”? Of course, what creative player isn’t? “Not a full 90+ player”? He carried the team for huge stretches in SA on both sides of the ball.
    I’d argue that any “fading” that happens has more to do with the fact that an opponent has stretches of containing him, that the tempo of his game ebbs and flows, and that fans have an unrealistic expectation of him.

    We’ve most often seen him in this new role lacking a true dynamic partner in the center of the park, once all the other pieces are in place and clicking I think it’s gonna rock this house… you put Shea on the right, Donovan on the left, Altidore in from and a solid DM like Jones of Bradley behind him plus one extra element depending on your opponent (an additional midfileder like a Holden or Feilhaber or Williams, etc. a striker/winger like Gomez, Agudelo, Davies, Bedoya, Beasely etc. or DM like Torres, Edu) and he’ll becomes that much more dangerous.

    I say keep it going, the more this clicks the more motivated he will be. The only issue will be will other folks be okay with thier new roles. I casn’t help but wonder if this LD “injury” is more of a reaction to this new development… that’s just conjecture on my part…

  2. dempseys position changed when buddle came on with aguedelo, bradley was almost on the right side of a diamond with dempsey as the attacking mf, it was just very tight in the midfield and with two forwards too boneheaded to move fluidly, dempsey was choked out of space

  3. Shea playing left back is an interesting concept. I certainly like the idea of the young guys taking over at left and right back, putting Chandler back to his natural position and having the left footed Shea playing from the back would be a plus.

    However, Shea is a big guy. I think it would be difficult for somebody his size to hoof it up and back from the back for 90 minutes.

  4. I like Shea I just felt we were starved for service and that this related to Shea and Williams on the wings. Shea is real good at getting round the corner and squaring the ball back across the box. But I didn’t see anyone at wing really hitting traditional winger crosses into the box…..precisely the sort of ball Ecuador scored.

    I’m a Dynamo fan and my two cents on Holden is that he’s kinda like Torres as a CM, and Torres is a polarizing figure. Kind of a one-touch keep the ball moving type. What we really need is not a pass and link type it’s someone who will turn upfield and take people on. A central Shea/Dempsey. I prefer Holden as a RM, where he started here. Honest and hardworking, good crossing, good speed, ball skills.

  5. I would think so. We still need to see what are options are passed the second string. And to see if they can overtake Goodson or Orozco. Personally, I think John is the more realistic option to overtake Orozco. I think Goodson is a lock, for now.

  6. This might sound crazy after the game that Shea had on the left wing, but I still think Shea could go to left back and the three forwards would be Dempsey Altidore and Donovan. Chandler to Right back.

  7. Davies, yes. I think he could be an answer to some of our issues of production up top. 11 goals just in MLS.

    Braun, ho hum, that sounds like Cooper Part 2, or Twellman again. Nothing about him screams I could score on Brazil. Good MLS player, but international ball?

    Zusi, that’s an interesting one, he has a Preki-ness about him that might be useful in spots.

    Gomez might be interesting, along with Agudelo, as supersub options up top. If the idea is to start them, heck no.

    Adu, not good enough. Gonzo, too slow.

  8. Buddle’s legs looked stiff and he played, old, I guess would be the best word.

    I disagree with playing a “raw” Shea as being a bad thing. He’s given a speedy/attacking spark on the wing we haven’t had in awhile.

    Additionally, I think Stuart Holden’s best position isn’t on the wing, but rather as a central midfielder.

    Regarding Dempsey, going forward and given his age, I believe the withdrawn forward is his best position for the Nats. I believe his last few starts have proven this, too, and JK is utilizing his talents brilliantly.

  9. I would grab Bradley and give him a critique or two but he’s busy somewhere practicing hopeless, indulgent 30 yard shots that kill attacks.

    I don’t think Beckerman belongs but the center mid issue regarding other players, to me, is more tactical. Is Klinsi starting all these d-mids to get a look at a crowded spot, or is this how he really foresees the attack? Because we were bereft of central creativeness last night and it had everything to do with the absence of a playmaker and the oversupply of d-mids in camp. There was no ooomph up the middle in the final third. I hope it’s a trial phase because in tactical terms it does not work.

  10. I think the defense has improved because Gooch is healthy and Klinsi is more ruthless about the callups. I don’t see him letting a Bornstein or Ream allow goals repeatedly. That being said, I think he’s unfortunately going to work down the list and let a lot of middling players make mistakes that will allow one goal in the midst of an otherwise improved defense.

    The question to me will be whether when we hit the qualifiers, or at least the hexagonal, he’s found enough good players and filled the holes. In terms of back I’m a little concerned that Dolo is fading and that by fixing the LB issue with Chandler he’s setting himself up for a new problem area at RB coming soon. In which case you might as well play Chandler on his natural foot and go back to the LB well…..Lichaj when healthy?…..than pretend like we’ve got the wings fixed……Dolo didn’t like he could keep up with attackers anymore.

  11. I depends how you define attack. Goals? Yes, you’re right. Knocking the ball around and getting forward, sometimes with abandon? That’s not been seen since maybe bits and pieces of 2002 when you had McBride in his prime plus Landon and DeMarcus et al.

    Like I said above, I think the problem is our most productive goalscorers are also our most effective wings….Landon and Dempsey. They can’t set themselves up, so if you stick them up top and don’t call up good wings…..last weekend happens. Dempsey gets one but we struggle. If they go out wide or back to mid like early Klinsi days then the passing attack heats up but the finishing dwindles.

  12. I will say that Klinsi has his favorites and blind spots just like Bradley, he seems to call in a lot of German- and Germany-based players and then use them any old place. I mean, Buddle from the 2.B after last year? However, his omissions of Castillo and Orozco and his demotion of Bradley do seem to suggest that he might be more rational and mindful of the facts before him, but same time he does seem to insist on giving Spector and Ream et al. one more chance to mess things up under his regime as though we didn’t already know who the problem players were from Bradley’s era. As long as he stays ruthless and runs them back out of town when they mess up, one can have hope.

    I see 3 problem areas for personnel: forward, wing, and back.

    I think forward production is a serious problem and I think people are oblivious to the fact that Donovan and Dempsey are the productive goalscorers and that in 5 years Jozy has 12 goals, 3 of which were against Trinidad when they sleepwalked through a road qualifier here. He had nada in South Africa and doesn’t even have a good record of scoring on regionally competitive sides.

    My suggestion would be leave Dempsey up top because time after time dude has shown he can and will finish with quality. Did this last weekend. He’s actually scored in 2 world cups.

    I say that but then if you play him there who’s gonna play wing? One thing that I felt hurt the attack these past two games was using Dempsey as a forward because you then started the raw Shea and the out of position Williams as wings. The chances created in previous Klinsi games drained.

    So there is a catch 22 element here where your best forwards in terms of production are also the people who have produced and made the team hum as wings. I do know we have some players who if healthy, like Holden, can play wing, but I think the Dempsey-Donovan conundrum is right up there with finding a set of 4 or 5 solid backs as defining of this world cup cycle.

  13. Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzalez, Freddy Adu, Herculez Gomez and maybe even Justin Braun, deserve call ups.

    Also, maybe it’s time to get Charlie Davies back in the group?? At least in the camps?

  14. That’s b/c Klinsmann is still starting Jozy Altidore. He is not a true finisher.

    Yes, he has has some great passing and hustle in the last two games, but he just is not a natural goal scorer.

    To that end, he has has soooo many starts. In these friendlies, it’s time to let someone else get a start with the first team. Agudelo, IMO, should have started the Ecuador game for that reason.

  15. This post is quite ironical. mlsh8er’s criticism were quite fair and true. But you on the other hand, you seem to be the biased one.

  16. yeah, but that was a box midfield…well, was supposed to be. and in a box midfield, you don’t have wingers. either way, that was a bad call.

    williams is a midfielder who has played defense. truth is, based on what i have seen, he seems best suited for a holding mid role. i thought he would be a LB prospect, but he doesn’t seem to have enough pace. i think we’ll see him in the midfield with the USMNT. but if he plays in the back for Hoffenheim, that could change.

  17. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

    You obviously have a limp-on for Bradley. He out played an obviously tired Edu, and was stronger in distribution and possession than either Edu or Beckerman.

    I for one, am really looking forward to seeing him after a couple more months in Serie A. I predict outstanding things for that young man.

    and if Herr K gets into the same rut as his predecessor and sticks with just “his guys”(beckerman,edu,howard,donovan,mcbride) the US will suffer for it.

  18. Yes, for all the talk of attack, only 2 goals in 5 games under Klinsmann, the same number as in the first half versus Mexico that lost the job for Bradley. Surprisingly it is the defense that is performing a bit better under Klinsmann. At least if you think that it is goals actually scored or scored against matter.

  19. I think you can see the attacking style of soccer not only with the amount of flair Dempsey plays with now (I mean honestly, who needs to corkscrew to the ground when playing someone through?) but the give and go passing not only up the lines, but through the middle. I admit that the return passes on a lot of those plays were not as clean as they needed to be, but the ideas are there and they seem so close to breaking through in a big way

  20. Let’s see what Johnson can do in a US uniform and have Williams show some consistency before anoiting them impact players. If I remember correctly, Eddie Johnson had like 5 goals in his first 3 USMNT games. Give the kids time.

  21. Too bad MLS has playoffs next friendly. Id like to see Willians and Bradley in the center with Donovan and Shea outwide. Will be interesting to see how Johnson fits into things. As he is a winger I believe? Does he beat out Shea for that starting spot?

  22. Dempsey’s lack of touches in the second half had a lot to do with Bradley’s desire to play the same position as Beckerman. He was consistently behind or square to Beckerman while Edu was ahead. You would think that it would be a good opportunity for Bradley to show his touch and passing ability but alas he was slow to the loose balls, out of position and tried time and time again to go with long hopeful passes.

  23. I’d like to see more (any!) scoring, like everyone, but what’s really impressed me lately is that Klinsmann isn’t just getting the best out of Dempsey, he seems to have found real impact players: Shea, Chandler, Williams (probably), Johnson. The whole debate about Ream is valid, but I think it misses the fact that all of a sudden, the pool looks much bigger and more dangerous than it did a few months ago.

  24. Remember Bradley also played on right, for Klinsmann first game. Williams seem pretty average on right, maybe Williams prove on centrel, because what I remember from Williams, Williams was a defender.

  25. Williams has played out wide for Hoffenheim. He even said he enjoys that position. So it’s not JK just randomly did that. Either way, I think Williams is better suited for the middle.

  26. I don’t get Klinsmann fetish’s using defensive midfielder on right side of midfield. Like Williams & Bradley.

    Ream, Orozco & Beckerman aren’t USNT material.

    Dempsey tried, can’t be blame for negative results.

  27. Perhaps. However, if I never see Spector, Beckerman or Ream in another USMNT match of note, it wouldn’t bother me. I will admit that of those three, Ream still has some room for growth, but I think both Spector and Beckeman are not up to the task of top-notch international football.

  28. I think GW, a poster on here, made a great observation last night.

    He said, “Klinsmann is a bit ruthless. He knew what kind of situation he was putting Ream in to and wanted to see how he’d handle it.”

    I think that’s a fair assessment and likely gave JK the perspective that Ream isn’t ready at this level.

  29. I think in retrospect Ream’s international career has been a bit mismanaged. Bradley kind of threw him in the deep end by making him a starter for the Gold Cup and then ruined his confidence by dumping him after the mistake against Panama. Up to that point he had looked pretty steady for the US. I am not blaming Bradley because at the time Ream looked ready but in retrospect he wasn’t and his confidence has been shot ever since.

    Even Klinsmann probably should have known better then to play him last night. It was a nice gesture in RBA but the better team to get Ream some experience against would have been Honduras.

  30. In the first half, he was linking up with Brek Shea who was threatening. In 2nd half, Ecuador was able to focus more on Dempsey- at one point I’d see him get the ball and then there’d be 3 defenders converging on him, but he’d still be able to keep possession.
    Klinsman is doing the obvious right move with Dempsey. Giving the U.S. team’s lack of offensive creativity, I was surprised that Bob Bradley would utilize him as a traditional winger that’d have to come back and play defense.

  31. Does he have the speed to play outside back or midfield? I don’t think I’ve seen evidence for it so far, but I’m not in the best position to tell.

  32. absolutely disppeared in the second half….Is Tim Ream out of position at Center Back? Maybe he should be at Left Back or in the midfield….


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