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Clint Dempsey on USMNT: We’re missing a number nine

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As Clint Dempsey prepares for induction into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame on Saturday, the moment is also serving as a reminder that the U.S. men’s national team has yet to replace him with another reliable goal scorer.

Now five years removed from his national team career, which finished with Dempsey tying Landon Donovan for most career USMNT goals with 57, Dempsey has transitioned from player to television analyst and what he has seen during his time as an analyst is a USMNT sorely lacking is a reliable striker.

“We’re missing a No. 9,” Dempsey told reporters on Monday in a conference call ahead of his Hall of Fame induction. “I think someone needs to kind of solidify that role and be the main guy. For example, if you’re looking at Canada with [Jonathan] David and Cyle Larin, they’re both been doing a great job…if one is out, another one steps in and they don’t really miss a beat.”

The USMNT qualified for the 2022 World Cup despite not having a dependable presence at striker throughout the Octagonal Round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying. Ricardo Pepi enjoyed a strong start to the Octagonal but quickly cooled off heading into 2022, and injuries also played a part in limiting Berhalter’s options at the position, with Jesus Ferreira emerging late in the cycle as a real contender for the role despite not being a prototypical striker.

Dempsey is no stranger to being thrust into the striker role despite it not being his most natural role. His final World Cup appearance, in 2014, featured a run at striker after injuries to Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson forced Jurgen Klinsmann to push Dempsey up top rather than in the playmaking role he was expected to fill in Brazil.

The striker position isn’t the only one on the USMNT that Dempsey has his concerns about heading into the World Cup. Goalkeeper is expected to be a battle between current first-choice option Zack Steffen and Matt Turner, but as things stand, Steffen will be Manchester City’s backup once again next season unless he makes a move and Turner is set to join Arsenal in the summer, where he is expected to serve as a backup.

“Whoever is going to win that (goalkeeper) spot is whoever is going to be playing more consistently,” Dempsey said. “If you’re not playing consistently for your club that you’re on, then you need to go on loan and get those minutes. Because it’s all about being sharp when that time comes. So it will be interesting to see what happens for Turner and Steffen in July and August, what decisions are made there.

“Not only the goalies, but I think all the field players as well, they need to be playing for their club teams come August and trying to get on a good run of form,” Dempsey said. “That’s what you’re going to need to go far in that tournament and right now we’ve had the injury bug bite us a bit with guys trying to get back to full fitness.”

Dempsey will return to the World Cup as an analyst, having recently been unveiled as part of the Fox Sports coverage team for the tournament in Qatar. The USMNT will open against Iran before facing highly-rated England, who Dempsey knows well, having played in the Premier League for six seasons and having scored against England in a 1-1 draw at the 2010 World Cup.

“It will be interesting to see who makes it in the group, I will definitely be rooting for them though all the way,” Dempsey said. “If you look at history, even though England is a really strong team and will likely be picked to go far in the competition, we’ve fared pretty well against them in that competition. Hopefully history will be on our sides and they can just get healthy for it.”

Comments

  1. .
    In other USMNT news, warm congratulations to Timothy Chandler on lifting the Europa League trophy with Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville. He didn’t play in the final, but he has still evidently been a key backup in the team through the season, as a now senior player. A proud moment; herzlichen Glückwunsch! (-:
    .
    Appreciation also to the USMNT for the groundbreaking agreement with the USWNT. A significant step.
    .

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  2. I’d like to see Beerholder try McKennie there. He is big, good in the air and quick. Also you don’t lose a ton when you play Acosta in his spot. I don’t think Weston up top can be any worse than what we have currently. I’d like to see it tried.

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    • Weston has played striker for Schalke.

      He’s predictable. A big guy waiting for something in the air. If you wanted that you’ve already got Pefok who is better at that than Weston is. So is Pepi. And Pepi has better all around skills than Weston.

      Weston has proven that his best role is the box to box, ball winning disruptor who also scores the occasional goal or helps make one. The new Arturo Vidal.

      Weston ain’t broke. I don’t know why everyone wants to fix him.

      Especially when no one else on the USMNT can do what Weston does well. Acosta is a good backup, nothing more. He’s valuable to the team because besides being a good backup he , Yedlin and Weston are our only hard men. Everyone else is a comparative softie.

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    • if he was asked that question by a member of the media, what is he supposed to say? So this idea that he is telling us something we don’t already while true, doesn’t need to framed sarcastically because he didn’t offer this take, he was responding to a question! Grow up people!

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  3. Uuuuhhhh…….We don’t have a number #9 banging away goals oversea playing on a top team in the EPL or Serie A…… but Jesus Ferreira is holding his own and doing his thing in MLS. As a matter of fact, I thought he IS playing as a full-time No. 9 in a dynamic 4-3-3 formation in Dallas……and scoring goals!!!! He is CURRENTLY leading as the highest goal scorer this season with nine goals and he also has good GOAL – ASSIST numbers . But coming from Dempsey, he more than likely sees something I absolutely don’t

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    • Ferreirra didnt exactly show a killer finishing instinct. Hes good in MLS, but against CONCACAF teams he was…meh

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      • It was his offseason and in brutal cold conditions. Team was 3-0 in matches he started and 5-1-1 in matches he played. 16 pts in games he played 9 in the half he didn’t. Obviously he wasn’t the sole reason they won or lost any of those but the team was better when he played. Hope he moves to Europe in January.
        For comparison:
        Pefok 0-3-0
        Sargent 1-2-0
        Zardes 3-0-2
        Pepi 5-2-3

      • Good stats from Johnny. I feel like that illustrates how Berhalter has set up the team to attack, he wants a striker that is quick, unselfish, combines well, presses hard all game, perhaps at the expense of a more prolific scorer. He thinks this sets up the most talented guys best (Pulisic, Reyna, Weah, Aaronson). Not agreeing or disagreeing, but probably why we have had more success with Ferriera and Pepi, and to lesser extent Zardes.

  4. Has he been keeping in shape? Can he still lace ’em up? Clint is kind of stating the obvious, but I do recall that once the Spanish won the WC without an out and out striker, but then that was Spain. I think the more important issue is if we can keep our payers healthy. BTW, it should be mentioned that Clint scored in 3 consecutive World Cups and I would that’s pretty select company. I was really hoping that we would qualify last time and he could have had a chance to score in 4. Only 4 players have done that.

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    • In their last two World Cups, the USMNT did not have a goal scoring #9 .

      What they did have were teams who played solid team defense and guys who were difference makers, guys like Clint, JJ, Landon.

      The 2022 team has Pulisic and maybe Gio and then a lot of question marks.

      Everyone else is a question mark.

      In the context of the World Cup, the 2010 and 2014 teams, going into the World Cup, had more proven difference makers, like Clint, than today’s team does.

      It could be that they got nothing.

      We’ll see if Pulisic, Gio and the others step up. The talent is all there. It just hasn’t been tested yet.

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