Clint, His Haul, & The American Now Caretaking At The Cottage

Heartbreaker, Record-breaker...

Once again Monday, it was Liverpool.

And given that Liverpool in some ways now represents the “English” hope as the home country Premiership super club, perhaps it was again appropriate.

And again, the conductor was Clint Dempsey with the symphonic high note on a little flick of his be-cleated baton. This time though, the performance and the standing ovation afterward was much more about the individual than the team.

Clint Dempsey, game winner. Fulham wins, Liverpool laments.

On the 5th day of another month–this one May of 2007–Dempsey poked home a similar goal to Monday’s winner to keep his newly-found Cottager team afloat in the Premiership for another year. (They’ve of course haven’t slipped to those dire straits since.)

December 5th, 2011–more than four years later–saw the American soccer’s favorite Texan swipe the American EPL career goal record (now 37) from his revered former Prem teammate Brian McBride. (Interestingly, it took Dempsey 14 more games to match McBride’s 26)

For a man that continues to score in cinematic ways: comedies, dramas, thrillers, suspenseful endings, it doesn’t quite seem that Dempsey has garnered the respect that taking home an Oscar from The Academy earns an actor in Tinseltown.

"*They still can't see me" (p.s. no way the "n" word was going in this caption)

It’s hard to see Dempsey one day getting a bar at Craven Cottage with his last-name emblazoned on it like McBride. More immediately, as the January transfer window’s latch begins to unfasten, the lack of Oscar-like respect will probably see Dempsey once again at the heart of rumors–not home mover–convergence.

In fact, if the title-type wasn’t overused by ESPN sister sites too much, the proper headline for for this Dempsey tale may be “That Curious Case of Drew Dempsey.” (The middle name makes the alliteration obviously work better.)

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

Through the prose of Marvin Gaye, there was a stark perplexity to how the squirrely attacker could pop-up like a whack-a-mole for a critical pass or goal, but go absent for long stretches of games.

Indeed for his club team Fulham, through 2009, over 80% of Dempsey’s goals in league play were either scored in the first 20 minutes of the match or the last 20. He wasn’t listening to Michael Jackson and sipping tea in between, but he wasn’t forcing the issue either.

For the US national team–with Landon Donovan firmly installed as first knight–the inconsistency was even more pronounced.

Dempsey appeared to trudge through games, frustrated perhaps at Bob Bradley’s strict system and at his penultimate role in the attack. (Indeed Dempsey would hold a come-to-Jesus pow wow with the former USMNT skipper in South Africa during the Confederation Cup to discuss just that.)

Dempsey didn’t lack talent, he lacked focus if things weren’t going his way. I’ll fight you on that point because it’s true.

Something changed–snapped, sledgehammered–for Dempsey in 2010 though–whether it was the realization and comfort level in his talent, just a step in maturity or…just something.

After he recovered from an injury that almost put his World Cup in doubt, Dempsey had the best Cup of any American, including Landon Donovan. A goal against England.. Near misses against Slovenia, but thrilling in attack. A goal called back against Algeria, but the run that gave Donovan the most explosive sitter in US history. Oodles of possession versus double teams against Ghana and the foul in the box that Donovan converted for the lone US score. Donovan may have gotten the media accolades after World Cup 2010, but it was Dempsey who backboned the process.

Later that year, Clint started out his Premiership campaign in true celebratory form. The Cottager piled up early goals while managing the birth of his second child. The lack of sleep only seemed to fuel his appetite for the attack and Clint had the best campaign of his career.

Indeed a quick look at Dempsey’s shots per game chart illuminates a simple and continual trend since he’s arrived in England. Almost every season since 2006-07l at Fulham his number of shots per game has increased–indeed the trendline is direct and this for a team that can hardly be labeled… “attacking.”

If that trend continues–and the goal to shot ratio remains in range to what it has–then, around the golden age of 30 and assuming good health, Dempsey could flirt with a 20-goal campaign. (Of course, we all know that won’t happen unfortunately.)

But it’s certainly no easy task when you consider that nearly each year Dempsey has had a new coach, a new role or both.

In short, not to mince words, it’s a fairly ridiculously trendline of data points.

All of this begs the question, why does Dempsey appear to be just one rung below being called “elite” in England? Why isn’t he talked about in the same light and capability as a Rafael Van Der Vaart (probably his best player comp in the Prem), Florent Malouda or even a Steven Gerrard.

But the real….hold up, Gerrard?! Malouda?!

Consider this.

Dempsey’s goals per game stands today at .23 for his 161 match career. Gerrard has a little more that double the goal number but only averaged .21 per match throughout his career, took most free kicks and many penalties. Oh and he had a fellow by the name of Xabi Alonso serving up goals on a platter and another technician named Fernando Torres commanding double teams and centerback attention.

So how come it just feels like Deuce can’t get his due? It does, doesn’t it? Does over here. Is it a charisma thing, or Dempsey not having a Twitter account, or xenophobic coverage because his passport has an American seal?

Actually it’s probably two things more subtle and technical.

Nagodelicious!

The first, Dempsey can’t be typecast. Is he a forward? Is he a winger? Is he just a midfielder?

The Fulham man is anything, but prototypical.

Against Tottenham earlier this year, Dempsey brought down the ball on over-the-top outlet passes and dropped off for interchanges with Bobby Zamora. The quick give-and-gos were beyond a nuisance for Tottenham whose central defense got violated all day long. Spurs fans were not so gently reminded that day that Ledley King’s knees are, in fact, already 65 years old.

The game afterward Dempsey was moved back out to the left wing–relied on to make incising jaunts up the left wing (against Sunderland) and relegated–for lack of a better word–to cutting-in for the few clean-up opportunities that could be turned into legitimate chances.

The lack of positional definition makes it hard to compare Dempsey against many players. Call him a forward and his numbers pale in comparison to a Robin Van Persie or more generically a Darren Bent. Call him a midfielder–a #10 even–and Dempsey lacks the assist tally or the needle-threading highlights. In some ways, it probably makes it hard for even front offices to give his name when they are looking to fill a need.

Imagine Harry Rednapp over at White Hart Lane instructing Dan Levy to get him a striker “god dammit.”

The exchange would probably continue….

Levy: “What about the Dempsey guy crosstown?”

Rednapp: “I said a striker goddammit and don’t you dare try to pull another Russian rabbit out of a hat!”

Need a creator in the Premiership and Luka Modric or David Silva come to a mind. You get the picture.

Second for Deuce comes the Cottagers’ team style and his role within it. Role, that’s different from position.

Fulham, by reputation and budget, have never swung the big stick of attacking football in the Premiership. In fact, if you look at the players who have been championed at Fulham over the past decade or so, most of them are noted for their work ethic (McBride, Danny Murphy), bulldoggedness (Andy Johnson), toughness (Steed Malbranque) or for just defending (Edwin Van Der Saar, Brede Hangeland).

Not an attacker in the bunch–and don’t you dare go putting Louis Saha in there.

No frills sort of players who merely get the job done. It’s who Fulham fans celebrate and its how their men get the job done.

Now add in Dempsey to the equation and on a team that doesn’t overwhelm with offensive components or threaten with offensive guile in its take-what-you-can-get, prod-to-the-weakness sort of attack.

In hindsight to the lead-in to the piece Dempsey really can’t be called that conductor, but more the detective seeking out clues and then solving the mystery of how to score against what is usually a better offensive side during the course of the game.

Given Dempsey’s somewhat amorphous “position” and his team’s label not being one of perhaps the most thrilling football, it would appear Dempsey’s talent and record goes undersold.

Heap on that Fulham perennially have one of the lowest team goals-for tallies in the league and that Clint has at best had a healthy Bobby Zamora as his best partner in crime, and one has to wonder just how good Mr. LoneStar might be if he were playing the “false” to Robin Van Persie’s “nine” or running in possession with Luis Suarez camping out in the box and Dirk Kuyt blazing to open forward space from his peripheral vision.

In short, Dempsey would probably have many more opportunities.

He’d have gaudier stats.

He’d get his just accolades and perhaps there would be more deserved whispers of “the next or at least poor man’s Bergkamp” instead of “he’s a nice player.”

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54 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dude on 2011/12/08 at 1:22 AM

    Excellent and thought provoking. Nicely done.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Matthew Owen on 2011/12/08 at 6:35 AM

    Yahoo Fantasy Football knows how good Dempsey is:
    Total Points:
    #2 among midfielders
    #7 overall

    Not exactly science though, those numbers.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Excellency on 2011/12/08 at 6:38 AM

    Suarez and Dempsey was just what I was thinking as well.

    Suarez is having a hard time finding somebody to play with. Dempsey could solve 50% of Liverpool’s scoring problem.

    As for lack of recognition, Dempsey is what I call a “hyena”. There will be no football team with a crest featuring The Three Hyenas. Clint’s football ain’t beautiful, it’s just effective.

    I don’t see him with RVP because at Arsenal the forwards really like to get forward and Clint likes to hang. Plus, Arsenal players have to be good at assists which isn’t Clint’s strength. Putting him next to a fox like Suarez who darts around all over the place looking for a hole in dee fence could work.

    Reply

    • Posted by Big Tex on 2011/12/08 at 9:25 AM

      “As for lack of recognition, Dempsey is what I call a “hyena”. There will be no football team with a crest featuring The Three Hyenas. Clint’s football ain’t beautiful, it’s just effective.”

      Those are called ‘coyotes’ in Texas. But accurate analogy, nonetheless.

      Reply

    • Posted by jwrandolph on 2011/12/08 at 11:56 AM

      Can you imagine a referee having to put up with both Dempsey’s and Suarez’s grump all game if he “missed” a call? Yeesh.

      That said, a pairing like that should spin centerbacks in circles. That’d be fun to watch. Great piece!

      Reply

  4. Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/12/08 at 7:42 AM

    This hits on one of my greatest fan conundrums. As a Fulham fan since 05 (OK that hasn’t been that long but..) I can’t stand the thought of them losing Dempsey. Sure they could put Frei or Kasemi in (or move Dembele into the Dempsey role and play AJ and Zamora up top) and avoid relegation but it would just seem like a huge step back to the days of following the last couple weeks of the year worrying about the drop.

    On the otherhand Dempsey is my favorite player on Fulham and more importantly to me on the USMNT. I think that the best thing for his career would be a move to a better team with better teammates. Lets just say that Chicarito’s cheeky runs would not work nearly as well if he was on Fulham. I think his goals could increase, his assists could increase, his reputation would increase dramatically if he was doing the exact same thing he is doing with Fulham was with Liverpool (He leads Fulham in EPL goals and is tied for the lead in assists).

    Reply

  5. Posted by JGD on 2011/12/08 at 8:05 AM

    Great posting. As you’ve touched on, I think the reason McBride scored 36 faster than Clint is precisely because Clint has never played one position (and McBride was always played up top). Which just makes Deuce’s accomplishment all the more remarkable.

    He’s a jack of all trades, and as Prem teams are noticing, starting to master them one by one.

    Reply

  6. Posted by EG on 2011/12/08 at 8:09 AM

    Great article. The only thing I’d add is that I think there actually is a little bit of hope for the future at Fulham, especially in the attack. While Zamora hasn’t looked himself lately (that England cap might’ve messed with his head), Moussa has been breathtakingly effective of late, and Ruiz is starting to show signs of life. Point being, it’s a rather unconventional attack, but you could almost see them functioning quite effectively with three rotating false nines (is that even possible?) behind a lone striker up top who’s there mostly to stretch the defense and give Moussa, Dempsey and Ruiz more space to operate. All three are quite unselfish — Moussa to a fault — so this weird three-pronged, no-true-forward attack could become something formidable given time.

    If Moussa sticks around, that is. The heavies should come calling any day now. He’s been looking that good, in my opinion.

    Again, great piece.

    Reply

    • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/12/08 at 9:56 AM

      As a Fulham fan I am still concerned with how all of these attacking pieces fit together. Zamora and AJ make a standard 4-4-2 with one target and one speed guy, however then you have Dembele, Dempsey, Ruiz, and Duff all looking to play outside MF. If you go 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 (Fulham plays them basically the same with the exception that Murphy is more Holden style then destroyer) then you bench AJ and still need to bench probably Ruiz or Duff.

      Maybe Fulham is looking long term and thinking of life after AJ and Duff but not sure that they are quite in the buying $8 and $11 million guys without a sale range yet. The thing that made Ruiz an odd buy without moving Dempsey (or Dembele) in either last or this window is that there true need is someone to replace Murphy (which won’t be cheap).

      Reply

  7. Posted by SamT on 2011/12/08 at 8:12 AM

    Damn, Matt. You been savin’ up. Nicely done.

    Reply

  8. Posted by David on 2011/12/08 at 8:53 AM

    I think while it’s certainly possible that Dempsey could move to a bigger club and flourish, I think it is almost equally likely that he might languish on a bench behind flashier talents. It has taken a succession of Fulham managers time to accept Dempsey’s game–Martin Jol was the first who came in and handed him a starting spot–and that largely happened because Fulham never had any other great attacking options. Though, as you mentioned, Dempsey doesn’t disappear from games with near the frequency that he once did, he’s not going to dazzle you with his touch on the ball or his field vision. In a way, he reminds me a bit of Dirk Kuyt, who Liverpool (or at least a contingent of their fans) seem always eager to replace, despite the fact that he’s perhaps their most reliable winger/midfielder. One thing I’ve noticed about him at Fulham this season (and the second half of last season) is that as its become clear to him that he is really the straw that stirs their drink, he has really asserted himself and blossomed into an attacker who seems dangerous nearly every time he touches the ball. His work with Dembele has been particularly inspired lately, and if, as EG indicated above, Zamora and/or Andy Johnson can return to form, they could be pretty potent up front. (Ruiz however, has looked pretty useless to me.)

    Reply

  9. Posted by JGD on 2011/12/08 at 9:14 AM

    Can someone please explain to me the widespread love with Moussa Dembele? All I’ve been hearing is how he’s the “next big thing” and ready to explode in the Prem. It certainly cannot be based on his goal scoring prowess. To be fair, I haven’t been watching him (or Fulham) that closely this year…is it his off-the-ball movement? Passing ability? Where do you think he best fits (attacking mid, winger, striker)?

    Not looking to be snarky, just trying to figure out what people have been seeing in him (and what I can watch for).

    Reply

    • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/12/08 at 9:50 AM

      He tends to have a couple flashes of brillance in the attack each game. Those flashes have been coming more and more often. I personally think he still dribbles and tries to beat three guys a little too much (ala Dempsey circa 2008) but he is improving by leaps and bounds.

      When I watch Fulham I come away with the impression that most of the team is servicable (for EPL standards). They are good but not great. Dempsey and Hangeland are the only two field players that are capable of standing out for Fulham. Dembele has the potential to be the top player on that team on a given night.

      IMO Dembele is perfect in the Demspey role from last year (withdrawn forward) however he could probably play the cutting in from the wing role fine. In the Liverpool game Dempsey and Dembele switched quite a lot and I would argue that even though the starting line up had Demsey as a MF and Dembele was the F the roles were reversed most of the time.

      Reply

      • Posted by JGD on 2011/12/08 at 2:42 PM

        Great, thanks for the response! I’ll be sure to watch him (and Fulham) more throughout the season.

        Reply

  10. Posted by David on 2011/12/08 at 9:28 AM

    Dembele has as deft a touch on the ball as anyone in the EPL. If you watch the games, the ball looks glued to his foot. He sees the field very well and, as someone else mentioned above, is unselfish to a fault. At times in past years, like, say, Adel Taraabt at QPR, he’s often seemed too enamored with his own ball skills–he’d dance too long on the ball or would beat three players at midfield only to be dispossessed by the fourth–this year he has shed most of those bad habits. He doesn’t have the stats to back it up (yet), largely because he is not an instinctual scorer, doesn’t shoot enough and Fulham haven’t exactly been impressing anyone with their finishing in the past few years, but he is potentially a great foil for Dempsey if they both stick around. A big “if.”

    Reply

  11. Posted by Dinho on 2011/12/08 at 10:01 AM

    Great posting! Dempsey is a stud and deserves to play in European competitions (as he showed in Europa last year, i.e. the sublime chip/goal against Juventus). I sincerely hope he gets to play in the CL before teams consider him “over the hill.” I think he’ll thrive!

    Reply

  12. Posted by Matt C in Tampa on 2011/12/08 at 10:02 AM

    One label you can put on Dempsey is: “First Player on the Team Sheet”.

    excellent article.

    Reply

  13. Posted by mbw on 2011/12/08 at 12:19 PM

    I also really like this article. Though I maintain that Dempsey’s goal celebration is a reference to the WWE wrestler John Cena, not ‘Pac.

    Reply

  14. Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/12/08 at 2:07 PM

    Fantastic article, Matt. Deuce just continues to find ways to shine a little brighter even with Fulhams maddening attacking 4 approach. I’ve watched them most games this yr and they really are an interesting team but much too talented to be in relegation fight year in/out. Dembele reminds me of current day Malouda in his overindulgent self-belief and willingness to do mindnumbingly dumb things with the ball quite often. I have noticed that he and Demps seem to be at odds quite often after stalled attacks or turnovers. Zamora has dropped off quite a bit from his form of a few yrs back IMO. Which again makes Deuces ability to put up numbers quite impressive.

    Although I understand the need to carve out space at that level, his snarl and whine EVERY time he goes to ground is getting pretty tired. Both the ref and player get a lecture from him pretty much every time he even thinks he’s fouled. Which is every time he’s touched. Lose that part of the ‘tude and he becomes a more enjoyable player to watch. Might play into his 2ND tier status a bit with fans as well.

    I’m also of the opinion that Fulham may be a perfect storm for him as opposed to a bigger club. He gets a tremendous amount of freedom and time on the ball, which his game demands, that a bigger club would not afford him.
    I do look forward to catching each game as he is fascinating to watch.

    Reply

  15. Posted by Bode on 2011/12/08 at 3:31 PM

    Hate to be the turd in the punch bowl, but as a Liverpool fan, I absolutely do NOT want Dempsey on our team. He’s just not quite good enough. In a vacuum where we would not have to pay a transfer fee or wages, sure I’d be happy to be able to bring him off the bench, but he would not consistently crack the starting XI. He doesn’t have pace (which, while it’s been partially addressed, we still lack) and his age is a factor.

    Compare Dempsey’s 2010/11 season with Stuart Downing’s year at Villa, who finished a point behind Fulham last season. Dempsey had 12 goals and 3 assists in 37 Premier League appearances, Downing had 7 goals and 7 assists in 38 appearances. Downing was Villa’s player of the year and, along with Ashley Young, one of the two players that really made them click. Now Downing is now in-and-out of the Liverpool side and the media is turning on him. I think the results would be similar with Deuce. In fact, I’d say he would probably play less because he’s slower and not left footed.

    Dempsey is a good player who is proven his quality in the Premier League. That takes some doing and he deserves a LOT of credit for getting himself to that level. Unfortunately, I think he tends to be a little overrated around these parts, and I think its fair to say that he’s found his level (important player in a mid-table Premiership team). Perhaps if he had just a little bit more pace, he could’ve been world class– being a solid Premier League and International player is no small feat though!

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/12/08 at 3:43 PM

      Think it’s fair to say it would be a challenge with Liverpool’s current players. That said, that odor you smell the ‘Pool dressing room is in fact coming from Stuart Downing play this year.

      Transferred in during the summer, 12 starts (so all but 2 thus far), horrendous shooting and passing accuracy.
      Downing has been up and down for the better part of his career since folks thought he was the truth coming after “that Middlesborough season”

      For my part (writer) (and I don’t at all think your criticism is unfair), I wasn’t a Dempsey fan until WC 2010. Truly, he lacked focus and was petulant.

      While he doesn’t fit the Liverpool system it’s hard to disagree that he wouldn’t be a much better option than Downing from a clear “squad value” perspective.

      -And that’s part of the problem. Downing can be considered a prototypical winger. Dempsey is prototypical nothing.

      Reply

      • Posted by Bode on 2011/12/08 at 4:44 PM

        Definitely agree that Dempsey is what the NBA would call a “tweener” — he’s not a striker, not quite a #10, not really a winger. I think that’s held him back in his career, too. Also agree that he’s really stepped up his game over the past couple years as well. He’s been my favorite player on the USMNT since WC 2006.

        I think that Downing has been pretty unlucky this year– he’s either hit the post or forced some *incredible* saves 5 or 6 times this year (see e.g. his effort against Fulham). If a couple of those shots go in, he would have enough youtube “soundbite” highlights to appease the media, would probably have less pressure on him, and would be having a better season. In a way, he’s been a microcosm of Liverpool’s season so far. I never thought Downing was worth ~20m pounds or whatever the fee was, though the press never talks about the wage aspect to transfers (e.g. though Carroll and Aguero “cost” the same, factoring in wages, Aguero is 2x as expensive).

        Dempsey is in a tough spot for mobility, at least in England. With all the money that’s in the game there, you really have to be something special (esp. non-EU players) to get a top transfer. If you look at the attacking options he would have to beat out to break into the top-six, its definitely an ask for any player. Seeing how Joe Cole is playing regularly for Lille, I’m fairly confident that Deuce could play in CL outside the big four leagues. I think on a “big fish small pond” team (e.g. Basel, Ajax, Standard,etc.), Dempsey’s talents would really shine because he would be playing a more attacking style with higher technique players.

        Reply

        • My opinion has been that Downing has just been awful this year. He isn’t setting people up, he is drifting in and out of games, his service has been abysmal at times. 9 times out of 10 he kills the attack that he is involved in by either A: shooting in a poor fashion or B: firing crosses over everyone’s head and out for a goal kick.

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          • Posted by Bode on 2011/12/08 at 5:01 PM

            A little “square peg round hole” factor going on with Downing. Liverpool NEVER have people in the box to cross for, which is a lot of Downing’s game. Also, he is played on the left a lot, even though we have Jose Enrique on that side who loves to bomb down the flank. They take each other’s space. I’d like to see him played on the right where he can either cut in and shoot or drop it back to Glen Johnson on the overlap. Of course, Glen Johnson likes to cut inside a lot, too, so they would probably take up each other’s space. Next time you’re watching Liverpool pay attention– Suarez will ALWAYS drop deep or work the channels, and Carroll seems allergic to the penalty box.

            It’s really quite baffling how many soccer transfers occur without really asking how the pieces will fit together.

            Reply

            • Posted by JGD on 2011/12/08 at 5:49 PM

              That Jose Enrique does cherundolo up and down the pitch quite nicely. Carroll, when he does play, lollops around the outside of the box hoping something will glance off his forehead (Can you tell I’m an avid ‘Men in Blazers’ listener?)

              Downing has been disappointing, but much like Joe Cole last year, he’s not being utilized properly. Look how well Cole is playing for Lille, a team that understands what he can and cannot do and doesn’t ask for more.

            • Posted by Bode on 2011/12/08 at 6:01 PM

              Another fan of that podcast as well.

              One thing I’ll say about Carroll– I’ve got this sneaky suspicion that, if Liverpool get into Europe next year, he will dominate. Peter Crouch has a great European scoring record and I think that European defenses have a problem with a classic no. 9 who is superior in the air. When Liverpool played Braga shortly after Carroll joined, he caused them all sorts of problems. When he’s on form, he has a skill set that not too many others in the world possess.

        • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/12/08 at 4:57 PM

          That is a great point. I would love to see the “cost” of a player. A look at wages plus the amortized transfer fee. Obviously if Player A has a $20,000,000 contract and a $10,000,000 he is a worse deal than a guy that has a $5,000,000 and a $12,000,000 transfer fee. We typically only see the fee.

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        • Posted by CJ on 2011/12/08 at 5:25 PM

          “Definitely agree that Dempsey is what the NBA would call a “tweener””

          So basically if you took the rigid coaching of soccer out of the game, and instead of playing it by position, number, or title, allowed players to feel it out, you would want a Dempsey on your squad. However, if the Brazilian overlapping, interchanging flair isn’t your game, and you prefer “you are striker, you belong here” then he’s not wanted for your squad. Soccer as a sport is at its best in the backyards and youth fields where limitations of formation and positioning haven’t been overly imposed into the mind. You like to play the left? Play the left. Back, Mid, FW, who cares, just dominate the left and if the play carries you right occasionally, as long as someone covers you a bit, drift right as needed. To me that mentality screams Dempsey. The problem with that as most of you are likely aware, is that a Coach at the level Dempsey plays doesn’t want a team that just drifts around the pitch. That kind of game is “uncontrollable” and intolerable. Coaches don’t get paid to watch players right? They get paid to impose their will on the game from the sideline. Oh, wait. Some of my best coaches encouraged me to be different, approach the game from different angles and only gently nudged me toward a more conformed standard rather than drop the hammer every time I left my “zone”.

          I love Dempsey’s free flow, surfer mentality game. With players surrounding him that can adapt their skillsets to any situation like him, he would shine like the brightest star.

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        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/12/08 at 6:20 PM

          Not to harp on Downing but his shooting percentage this year is something like 18% while Dempsey’s is a staggering 65% or so.

          Reply

          • The amazing thing about Dempsey’s percentage is that 90% of his offensive game was accurately labelled by Bruce Arena as “he tries s***.” There’s no other American I’ve seen who has that tendency to freelance so much and so effectively. It seems like he’ll wind up with the ball in a dangerous area and decides “well that seems interesting, let’s do that.” There’s a genius to it that I think you have to be a player to appreciate and understand, and as all the soccer I’ve played in my life was either in a net or in a rec league, I’m sadly unable to comprehend what he’s seeing.

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      • Posted by Bode on 2011/12/08 at 4:57 PM

        I think another part of it is how subjective soccer is. Statistics have come a long way in the last few years, but it’s still very difficult to quantify the impact players have. In the stat book, a goal is a goal– no matter if scored when trailing 0-3 or whether it was Gerrard’s Olympiakos goals.

        A lot of my take has been based on my subjective viewing of almost every Liverpool and USMNT game. I think Deuce has earned a shot at playing for a bigger club than Fulham, but I don’t think he’s quite good enough for a top-six English team. If he were born 5-10 years earlier (before the ultra crazy money), I think his career may have had a different arc in England.

        That being said, if you sent me one year back in time (with hindsight) and offered me Dempsey for 5m or Carroll for 35m, I’d take Deuce every time.

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        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/12/08 at 6:22 PM

          I’d take both actually. I think the Carroll purchase signaled intent. I don’t think Liverpool convinces nearly as many folks to come to the Kop without that Carroll purchase.

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    • Posted by Martin on 2011/12/08 at 6:03 PM

      Bode,

      Downing vs Dempsey is not a fair comparison. They play different roles. Downing is more of a classic midfielder in that his game is basically setting others up. Dempsey is more about doing what needs to be done and given the teams he has been on that usually means scoring.

      In the EPL Dempsey has averaged one goal every 4.3 appearances. This puts him in Gerrard territory (he averages one goal every 4.6 appearances). Downing has averaged one goal every 9.13 appearances.

      Dempsey may not be the all around player Downing is but if you can regularly and reliably score, which Clint has shown he can do, then people ignore a lot of flaws. And for mid to lower level EPL team like Fulham, every goal is a big deal.

      Reply

      • Posted by Martin on 2011/12/08 at 6:11 PM

        Bode,

        One other thing about Dempsey vs Downing. Downing has never been a big deal for England.

        Maybe you don’t think having the burden (along with Landon) of being the only legitimate scoring threats for a second tier team like the USMNT is a big deal but, for my money Duece knows more than Downing about producing under pressure.

        Reply

      • Posted by Bode on 2011/12/08 at 7:27 PM

        Martin,

        I agree it’s not a perfect comparison but I thought it was reasonable to draw at least some parallels– they both play(ed) key offensive roles at clubs of a similar stature and Downing actually got the type of move that the column was suggesting. Last season, Downing spent a lot of time on the right cutting inside, much like how Dempsey is deployed on the left for Fulham.

        As TSG astutely pointed out, Dempsey is a “tweener” type of player. It’s difficult to find players who fit that same role. I thought it was a reasonable and current case study to use as an example.

        p.s. I’m sorry to sidetrack the discussion and turn it into one about Downing!

        Reply

        • Posted by Martin on 2011/12/08 at 8:42 PM

          Bode,

          Actually I like Downing. I always hoped he would do better for England.

          If you want a Liverpool player that Dempsey should most try to emulate,though Clint may never get nearly that great, it would be the manager, King Kenny.

          I’d like to see Clint stay at second striker and Dalglish, who I saw when he was at Celtic, was one of the best.

          Reply

          • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/12/10 at 12:05 AM

            Dempsey does not have the passing range of Dalgleish. Or brain. Fact.

            In addition, nobody has mentioned ‘space’, when talking stats. When teams play Fulham, they’re not exactly parking the bus.. you know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

            Reply

            • Posted by Martin on 2011/12/10 at 7:25 AM

              GC,

              Overeacting just a bit aren’t you GC?

              Of course Dempsey isn’t anywhere near Dalglish’s class. But he’s a guy Clint would do well to study.

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/12/09 at 11:56 PM

      Bode – you are being realistic. And you can tell the truth without being cussed. If I said the same thing, I would get bitched at and be called a “hater” of American sawker.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/12/10 at 12:59 AM

        No you would not GeorgeCross and you well know that

        Reply

      • Posted by Martin on 2011/12/10 at 8:49 AM

        George Cross

        Given the nature of this forum it is nearly impossible to have an authentic “give and take” like you might if you were sitting at a bar. Hence the tendency to take extreme positions.

        And you are easily offended. If someone takes a view that is just a bit different from yours on a given topic you take it as a personal affront.

        People aren’t attacking you they are just taking a different slant on a topic.

        Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross [@BhasViswanathan] on 2011/12/10 at 9:31 AM

          I am not offended at all, not in the slightest, Sir.

          I just believe that people are *extremely* generous of their praise when it comes to USMNTers – and if I [as a non-American] give a more modest appraisal, I get accused of being pessemistic towards US Soccer. It has happened many times in the past, which is why I usually do not participate in the comment section of these types of articles. A]. because I cannot be bothered ‘debating’ with people who are emotional about the subject matter – if people have a different opinion that is more than fine, but most of the counter arguments are let’s say “nationalistic”. B]. I don’t want to side-track the discussion because I feel it is unfair to the author who has spent their free time writing [for no compensation].

          Merry Christmas, everybody.

          Reply

          • Posted by Martin on 2011/12/11 at 2:06 PM

            A.- I disagree that ” *extremely* generous of their praise when it comes to USMNTers ” is due largely to nationalism. It seems to me that most of the commentators you refer to have a lack of perspective based on not having had much of a basis for comparison. Furthermore, US coverage, though much better than it used to be is still very much slanted towards the EPL and now, the Bundesliga. Dolo labored in almost total obscurity from US eyes until first Bradley moved to BMG and then Jones, Chandler and finally JK came on the scene. And it remains much easier to access EPL games than German games. .

            B- What you view as “sidetracking” could also be seen as adding perspective. What writer would not welcome that addition to their work?

            Reply

          • Posted by Crow on 2011/12/11 at 3:15 PM

            I disagree with the statement that commenters on this site that are fans of the USMNT are guilty of giving excessive praise to certain USMNT players. I think in general we are very hard on the ‘scapegoat players’- Clark, Bornstein, etc.- although in mind rightfully so. There are ‘good’ players such as Donovan and Bradley who face alot of criticism. Again, I think that is rightfully so due to their antics or taking the easy road times. Alot of forums or US soccer fans revere Donovan as some deity almost after the World Cup. There are many fans here that are tough on Dempsey- and I’m not talking back in 2008 or 2009- I heard criticism of him in JK’s first few games.

            I had a back and forth with you I believe back at the beginning of the EPL season, when I said that Dempsey belonged on an Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, etc. I still think that to be the case. I still struggle to believe that players like Stuart Downing are even technically more gifted, but once again I’ll say I think when sets Deuce apart from many players in the EPL is his fire. I always hear commentators complaining about the lack of hard work or the diva behavior of some of the stars of the big clubs. I think Deuce works hard to get every ounce he can out of himself- and that is a compliment. I think that should elevate him above players that even might be slightly more talented than he is. Clint is out of time though, I fear, if he doesn’t get out at this transfer window. He is my favorite athlete ever and I know he has said that he really wanted to play Champions League football at some point and I really hope he is able to do that.

            I think the players that US fans are most guilty of overhyping are some of the young up and coming prospects- Shea, Agudelo, Gatt, etc. We may overestimate their current or potential talent based off not seeing them play that much, or just based off the fact we are desperately searching for the Messiah of American soccer to come along.

            Reply

  16. [...] from a loan move in January…[WAAT]Clint Dempsey. The poor man’s Dennis Bergkamp?…[Shin Guardian]Lyon’s impossible 7-1 Champions Leaguewin over Dinamo Zagreb sparks fixing speculation. A [...]

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  17. [...] Football Focus last week, before scoring his 37th goal on Monday.  And The Shin Guardian looks at Dempsey’s career in the Premier League and wonders if there is any real comparison to another player in the league. [...]

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  18. Posted by Anthony on 2011/12/15 at 3:05 PM

    This stuart downing/dempsey comparison is absurd. Completely different players, different roles, different skillsets. Dempsey would not be brought to a team like liverpool to be that classic midfield player. As a Clint Dempsey fan I would much prefer him to move to a team like Arsenal. He would suit RVP perfectly in a supporting role. Imagine how he would flourish with the opposing defense forced to pay more attention to a teammate. Also, the attacking brand of football arsenal employs would giveway to more chances for clint, which would translate to more goals. 13 goals from midfield last year on a boring, hardworking, industrial, offensively dull squad. How could anyone doubt he would be anything short of fantastic when surrounded by better talent. Arsenal has a better midfield in place than liverpool and would provide clint better service. I hope he gets his chance. He’ll surely take it as he has consistently done throughout his career. And to the guy saying that Clint is overrated in England. Come off it.

    Reply

  19. [...] for his USMNT performances, has certainly changed our tune in the last couple years. At his club, his consistency has improved markedly as well, and, as Matt at TSG noted this month, he’s now…s. And he may be the key figure for this side in [...]

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  20. [...] First, a great primers for this question today: (On Clint Dempsey & respect) [...]

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  21. [...] First, a great primers for this question today: (On Clint Dempsey & respect) [...]

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  22. [...] skinny: The case for Clint Dempsey has been made here at TSG, many times over. For a player on a team that generates little offense, Dempsey is that offense with more than half [...]

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  23. [...] Recently from TSG: Clint, His Haul, & The American Now Caretaking At The Cottage [...]

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  24. […] But beyond these topline numbers on Dempsey, the shape of the Dempsey story has been carved incongruously. Dempsey is the cliched sports enigma. Sure there were goals by the truckload at Fulham, but he also saw a lot of the ball and could he do it at a bigger club? Sure, he scores goals, but they are lucky or lunchpail with little skill; he’s not a true goal scorer. Dempsey never was bundled in with the Rooneys, Tevez’s or even Bents in his time playing out of London. TSG wrote about the somewhat negative stigma here. […]

    Reply

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