Clint Dempsey through Marvin Gaye’s Words

C'mon Clint: What's going on?

C'mon Clint: What's going on?

(Update:  How Clint Looked Versus Chelsea)

“What’s going on?
Tell me what’s going on.”

A few days ago we launched a little primer entitled, “What’s Up With Clint?,” to get us thinking on how the still very young (CD is all of 26 years old) and in the prime of his career Deuceman has become virtually irrelevant for the US team over the past few months. Mind you, when we say irrelevant, we’re talking about being a difference-maker within the game. Clint has scored goals–but those moments have accounted for easily less than 2% of the time he’s been on the pitch for the USMNT. Remember the fierce Clint Dempsey attacking the Italian iron curtain defense at will and with reckless abandon (though not successfully) in the 2006 World Cup, yeah so do we. We want him back.

Today, we were jogged with the news that Fulham have signed former Chelsea and Newcastle left flanksman Damien Duff to their squad. Note, if you had the pleasure of watching Chelsea’s first year under supercoach Jose Mourinho in the 2003-2004 EPL campaign, their midfield, from right to left, of Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Claude Makelele, and Damien Duff was just a pleasure to watch.

Pardon the digression, with Duff in the mix, I would dare say Dempsey’s pitch time would be just slightly threatened, but he just Hancocked a 4-year deal at the Craven Cottage.

We also think Duff will act in support because Clint has simply been a better man for club than country lately. While his opening weekend assist was a once in awhile can-you-believe-that deflection off Bobby Zamora, his opening week chops show supreme skill, tactically efficiency and smart movement–qualities that have been lacking when Dempsey steps on the pitch for the Americans lately.

Clint, the American Outlaws, Sam's Army, fans everywhere are dying to see this passion

Clint, the American Outlaws, Sam's Army, and Yanks fans all over the world are dying to see this passion for the UMSNT again

So Clint,

“Brother, brother, brother

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some understanding here today”

Here’s some reasonings:

Obervations from TSG commentators: TSG’ers suggest it was either the Mexico’s strategy or the Deuce being frustrated with the American style

From Kevin:

“I think Mexico’s strategy was to attack mainly on the right side. while watching the game I did notice that alot of times Mexico stopped the ball and slowly got the ball over to the right. where dos santos was waiting to attack.”

From Rayment:

“1) I think Mexico made it a priority not to let Dempsey or Donovan beat them.

2) Clint is uber frustrated with the tactics of Bradley. His style of play is being stifled.”

Observations from Fulham supporters: Fulham fans (and coach) notice Clint’s play as well as and point to boredom or exhaustion

From Timmy G at The Offside blog series (great piece to read here)

“Since the (crap)fiesta in the ‘Rica (Costa Rica loss) up to today’s demolition by Brazil (Concacaf Final), Clint seems more than exhausted. His body language is reminding me of Craig Bellamy in a Wales Shirt, or Juan Román Riquelme in an Argentina kit. Its the inexplicable “I’m beyond this” gait and aura.”

From Fullham FC coach Roy Hogsden: (Hogsden points to exhaustion in his comments about keep Clint in top match shape)

“The element of fatigue we can’t write off,” explained Hodgson. “We gave him three complete weeks of rest between the Confederations Cup and pre-season training. He didn’t come to Australia with us.”

And finally our observations and opinion:

For my part, I think all of the observations above have some validity. When I’ve watched Clint over the past 6 months (mostly for the USMNT, damn you Setanta and Fox Sports), here’s what I’ve seen:

- None of the long runs to the corner or to the far post looking for a cross, lead pass or through ball. To me that smacks a bit of exhaustion. Remember this!

(gosh, that was well done by Beasley)

- I also haven’t seen a progression in tactics for Deuce during the course of a game. What I mean by this, he doesn’t change what he’s doing during the game if it’s not working. He’s prone to overhandling (is that the right word?) the ball and to overthinking how he’ll beat his man–and then worse trying that same thing out next time he’s got the marble. I see very little combination play and even worse very little passion for attack. That speaks to disillusionment, either with the offensive scheme, his deployment or the coach.

If you followed Clint Dempsey at Fulham, you saw him shackled to the pine and the subject of loan rumors early in the season last year, Demps perservered through his weekend relegation status to be a factor as a sub and then in the starting XI after Coach Hogsden started to see his commitment and impact. As well, Clint who started for America’s team on the right flank against Mexico last week, was asked to learn the left flank at Fulham, no qualms there.

Given that data about his character, I would think about chalking up Dempsey’s current performance to exhaustion, but the Riquelme comment

Say it ain't so, Demps

Say it ain't so, Demps

from above keeps nagging at me. I remember seeing Riquelme for his national team and how, still being a dominant player on the world scene, he just mailed it in–and something about the motions of CD on the pitch harkens that picture of Riquelme. Maybe not to nearly the degree of Riquelme, but I can see it.

I think Bob Bradley knows it also–while Bob commented that the conditions at the Azteca got to Clint, he’s also is quickly developing and showing pitch time to Stu Holden. While Dempsey is moving up to strike when the reserve right wing comes in showing Bob’s continued faith in the Fulham man, it would not surprise me if next time you saw Holden sub in directly for Dempsey if he continues to falter.

So my observation, I’m going with two parts exhaustion, one part fatigue–that fatigue being some concoction of playing too many games on the USMNT and/or the offensive formations and lately, their stagnations.

Gosh, TSG can’t wait for the El Salvador game. In our mind that game will answer oh-so-many questions from the lineup selection, to the US offensive tactics, and, of course, Clint Dempsey’s position and value on the team in the eyes of the American fan.

“You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today “

More Commentary:

Some great commentary below, specifically something Matthew N said that I wanted to get up here in the main section. We’re discussing the player performance vis-a-vis the system that player is in.

Matthew N.’s comment about Dempsey being in the wrong system was pretty well stated:

If you take Tim Lincecum off the mound and tell him to play third base, he isn’t going to be an all star no matter how hard he plays. Playing third just isn’t his game. It is the same with Dempsey. He scores on set pieces and whatnot because these parts of the game are the same no matter what brand of soccer you play, yet he struggles with the strategy-less US national team while simultaneously performing quite well at Fulham. There is a reason for this dichotomy, and the only thing I can think of is because of the drastic differences between the way the two clubs play football.

Note:

Just checked the TV Schedule for Fox Soccer this weekend, Aug 22nd – 23rd. Guess what the feature game Sunday morning PST is?  That’s right Chelsea vs. Fullham. Excellent.

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23 responses to this post.

  1. You can’t be serious! A goal is a goal is a goal! Dempsey has been the only player to produce goals consistently over the past few years for the US. Davies looks promising, but so did Eddie Johnson, Jozy Altidore, and Brian Ching. Dempsey is scoring these goals in big games when nobody else seems to be doing it consistently. Let us also remember that Dempsey is a wide player by nature not an all out striker.

    Yes, Dempsey does have his days where he struggles to hold possession, but who doesn’t have those on the USMNT? Donovan has been the US wonder boy for years, and is just now stepping into that position.

    The media doesn’t like Dempsey b/c he has passion and isn’t scared to show it. I don’t see the same ill tempered feelings for players like Beasley, Mastroeni, or Michael Bradley. The older generation of Harkes, Lalas, and Wynaldo don’t like Dempsey’s style of play. They like old school players that play two touch soccer and don’t speak out about the play of others. They just don’t understand every team needs a player like Dempsey to relieve pressure off the back four by holding the ball and beating players.

    Reply

  2. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/18 at 2:48 PM

    Doug:

    Thanks for the comments. And first — we’re huge Dempsey fans–but everyone sees the same thing. It’s not a “like” or “dislike” thing. We want Dempsey back — we need him back.

    There is a different point being made here though. It’s that Dempsey used to change games for the U.S.–and like he currently does for Fullham.

    He’s not doing that presently.

    Clint scores goals? I agree he does, but let’s be realistic. One toe poke on clean-up and a debatable touch on a Spector cross.

    But Clint has always been in the right place at the right time. He had one of the highest shooting percentages in the EPL last year.

    Clint though used to pressure the other team. Maybe he’s getting the ball in the wrong place–but that’s not happening everytime.

    And by the way, there are Fullham fans (and I’ll find more message posts) that see the same disparity. They’re English and could care less about the USMNT.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/08/18 at 4:01 PM

    I’m a big fan of the Bob Bradley is an idiot and doesn’t use Dempsey properly. He keeps him boxed in and the US just isn’t a good club in the first place. Fulham can actually pass the ball and move it around (somewhat). The US can’t even string together three or four passes. Dempsey needs others to feed him and he needs others to have/share the same type of field vision he has. With his club, these needs are met and Clint has been playing well and I hope he continues to do so. With the fledgling US team, every game is an exercise in how to be overmatched and outplayed. Until we get a competent coach and we can play a more mature game, our talent is going to be wasted. I feel bad for guys like Clint who will go through the prime of their playing careers under the banner of Bob Bradley. Just watching the opening weekend of the premiership, I can’t even imagine watching the US play anymore. The ball we play is atrocious, and Clint Dempsey/Landon Donovan/the other decent players can’t do anything about it until we get a new philosophy based on possession, high percentage passing, and manufacturing strikes on goal rather than relying on trying to catch lightning in a bottle with a counterattack or breakaway.

    Reply

  4. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/18 at 4:07 PM

    @Matthew and @Doug

    Similar points here.

    I’m in agreement that the US is, as we shall say, severely offensively challenged.

    Without addressing BB’s fault in the matter, don’t you have to play your best anyway even if you don’t like the coach or system.

    Landon’s able to do some work in the system as is Davies and Altidore. Arguably amongst all of then, Clint is still the most established internationally.

    Agreed that the US system is not conducive to Dempsey’s game, but you still have to make do.

    Reply

    • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/08/18 at 4:18 PM

      If you take Tim Lincecum off the mound and tell him to play third base, he isn’t going to be an all star no matter how hard he plays. Playing third just isn’t his game. It is the same with Dempsey. He scores on set pieces and whatnot because these parts of the game are the same no matter what brand of soccer you play, yet he struggles with the strategy-less US national team while simultaneously performing quite well at Fulham. There is a reason for this dichotomy, and the only thing I can think of is because of the drastic differences between the way the two clubs play football.

      Reply

  5. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/18 at 4:20 PM

    Excellent point Matthew N — will add to the story above.

    Agree to disagree (as I’m not sure the game is Landon’s style either), but a well stated point.

    Reply

    • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/08/18 at 4:24 PM

      Landon plays in the MLS where he has had to learn to play this US style of soccer. Dempsey plays the European game with his club. I’m not sure I’m making a very strong argument, but I think that Landon has a lot of experience relying on himself to score every goal and create every chance (the Galaxy have been terrible for the last few years), so I think that sort of improvisational skill has really helped Landon grow within the US system. I’d love to see Landon move to a much higher profile club team so he could really get the international respect he deserves.

      Reply

  6. Posted by Kevin on 2009/08/18 at 4:22 PM

    I think it’s a number of things as to why Clint isn’t performing as well as we think he should. There’s the exhaustion and fatigue like you said, but he’s better up top than he is in the midfield. Every once in a while you see the magic spark that he has that causes Bradley to want to play him in the midfield, and although I personally like him in the midfield because of his natural skills on the ball, he isn’t consistent enough for me not to say he should play up top with Davies. both of those goals he got during the confed cup weren’t out of the middle, they were while he was fighting for the ball as a striker. Also like Rayment said uber frustration with Bradley’s tactics.

    Reply

  7. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/18 at 8:09 PM

    I don’t think Clint’s really a goal scorer in the pure striker sense of the word — he’s a creator. He’s best–to me–when he’s taking on the wingfull one on one and then shooting or laying it off.

    He has an uncanny knack for the goal on set pieces and when there are scrums. I’ll have to find that number, but his shooting percentage is ridiculous. Most of those goals were not lashes though, they were headers or clean-up. He had two of his seven goals last year against Chelsea — one was a sweet header and the second (the pic earlier in the piece is his celebration after the second) was on a little back-flick when a ball trickled through the defense. I know at least one more of his was a header so we’re almost up to 50%.

    I don’t want to see him up front for the US–that’s just my personal preference. I don’t think he’s a great ball striker and I think he’ll wear down even more against bigger center back. Can you imagine him battling Gooch for balls all game long?

    Reply

  8. He won the Bronze Ball at the Confederations Cup, including the amazingly clutch third goal against Egypt. He’s one of our best attacking players, and I have no problem with his game.

    Reply

  9. one word Heart!!!!!! soccer is all about HEART!!! and that starts wit the coachin staff BOB BRADLEY HAS GOT TO GO!! AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!!! . . . the team is not the same heart and love for the game as before . . . DEMPSEY IS A GREAT PLAYER , STILL YOUNG but needs the push aka from his coach and his leaders like donovan. . . a goal is a goal but a great player is a brilliant player. . . if your goin to throw dempsey under the bus u cnt forgot donovan or bradley. . . donovan is one of the best players of USMNT history and they need that spark. . . another note is Altidore im praying seems to be the future of USMNT! . . he could be that spark. . .WHY WOULD YOU WAIT TILL 20 MINS LEFT IN THE GAME TO PUT IN A 19YR OLD KID WHO HAS BEEN ON FIRE WHEN YOUR LOOSIN TO MEXICO. . . it all starts with the leader. . even if altidore is trainin in europe. . . It starts at training and we need a new coach pref. . an international coach bob bradley seems to be drivin this team to the ground. . .

    notice how everyone forgot about the 2-0 defeat against spain but remember the 5-0 ass kickin mexico gave us (but they forget to say its 2nd string plays) [was at the game and yet again no heart] and the 2-1 mexico beatin us! . . . I still see dempsey havin that spark hes young and highly talented with the ball . . .but somethings got to change asap before the world cup

    Reply

  10. Posted by Bill Anderson on 2009/08/19 at 11:24 AM

    Fire Bob Bradley!

    This team has enough talent if a proper manager is installed before the World Cup.
    With Bob, we may still fail to qualify. When will enough be enough. If we lose or tie El Salvador in Sandy, will that be the FINAL Bob Bradley disaster? If not, what would it take. Put Fulham’s manager at US Soccer and we would never lose a CONCACAF match (home or away).

    Reply

    • Posted by Eric G on 2009/08/20 at 10:24 AM

      Bradley has done nothing for our National team. They sometimes win games they are supposed to win and always lose games they are supposed to lose. Bradley needs to go and we need to hire some aggressive foreign talent to develop some fresh ideas and brand of play.

      Reply

  11. [...] can read our recent commentary on Dempsey here, but I, for one, am going to tune into this game for not just the Dempsey factor, but to see how [...]

    Reply

  12. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/20 at 1:55 PM

    @Eric G:

    We’ll write more on Bob Bradley later this year, but I have to disagree for you. I think he’s done quite a bit of good work for the US.

    We made it to the Finals of the two tournaments we were in this year. You could argue that given the squad we brought to the Gold Cup and who departed that we shouldn’t have even made it that far.

    There was a comment in our “The Talent or The System?” piece from TSG fan Jarrod that I thought was pretty on target and I’ll echo some of his thoughts here.

    I think BB has done a good job of development of players, especially in the past year– his onfield strategy has to work vs. player development and I think he’s a little weaker there. But he’s learned — look at the Mexico game — normally you would just see BB come in with Benny instead of Benny and Stu — that was a more aggressive BB than we’ve seen.

    You need to judge the entire body of work of BB as we get closer to the World Cup. To judge it not, is simply not fair.

    I might have agreed with after our Brazil trouncing in the group stages of the Confed, but results matter and we did get to the Finals.

    Same with the Gold Cup.

    Against Mexico, we just weren’t there yet, but we had a shot to pull out a tie. Let’s remember the U.S. is now 0-23-1 at the Azteca. Should we expect a win — hell no. But we were in the running for that for awhile.

    Let’s judge BB in early 2010 and then again after the World Cup. I’m fine heading into the WC with BB and seeing our strategies unfold.

    Reply

  13. [...] you are watching the Fulham-Chelsea game as TSG is this morning, you are seeing an extremely active Clint Dempsey Up top at the expense of [...]

    Reply

  14. [...] you remember, the Mexican game was a big litmus test for Clint Dempsey in our eyes. We thought he would come through with flying colors. Clint has no excuses this time. [...]

    Reply

  15. [...] few months ago, TSG did a piece on Clint invoking the velvety tone of Marvin Gaye. The theme of our tune? Asking Clint, “What’s [...]

    Reply

  16. [...] Clint Dempsey Through Marvin Gaye’s Words (08/18/2009) [...]

    Reply

  17. [...] spoiled by a 23 year old Deuce in Germany 2006, one who scored against Ghana and, in the words of Matthew Tomas at The Shin Guardian, attacked the eventual World Champion “Italian iron curtain def… Perhaps we can write some of the less remarkable performances off with the argument that Dempsey [...]

    Reply

  18. [...] Two years ago, a TSG penned a piece with a decidedly different theme and title (“What’s Going On Clint?“) [...]

    Reply

  19. […] Then there’s the American narrative on Dempsey which–since 2009–has shifted intentionally or not. 2008-2009 saw Dempsey has a shoot-em up cowboy, going out on the range when he felt like it and drawing against the competition when he felt like it. The petulant and unfocused Dempsey, who TSG invoked Marvin Gaye to provide a narrative then. […]

    Reply

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