Dempsey celebrates with a cut-out of the now-infamous face he made against Jamaica in September.
BY JAMIE TRECKER
KANSAS CITY, Kan., — Clint Dempsey showed again Tuesday why he is the player the USA cannot win without. With two goals and an assist under his belt, the Tottenham Hotspur striker single-handedly solved the USA’s glaring problems on offense – at least for one night.
Dempsey’s skill is his positioning: he’s always where the ball is going to be rather than where the ball is. Tuesday, that was reflected in his diving stab netting the winning goal and his anticipatory run into the box to finish off Michael Bradley’s chip. It’s also reflected in where his coach lines him up: when Dempsey is deployed up top, he is incisive and harrying; he labors when Klinsmann chooses to drop him back into more of a playmaking role. He’s not Wayne Rooney – at least not yet – but he is clearly the team’s go-to guy when they need a big game.
Dempsey was succinct about his team’s woes as well. “We know we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We know we have to be better in possession and we know we cannot slip up in the next round. We’ve got to be able to consistently show our quality.”
So important is Dempsey that Jurgen Klinsmann admitted that one of the reasons Eddie Johnson was brought into camp was because of his “understanding” with Dempsey, and the gamble paid off: Johnson scored two critical goals in Antigua and Barbuda and had a key assist Tuesday night.
“Eddie and I were in that first [national team] camp together,” said Dempsey. “He was just flying around! It’s great to see him get back here because he’s a great player with a lot of character.”
Dempsey is going to need a lot more support in the coming months, however. The USA are already dangerously close to being just a three-man team with Tim Howard and Michael Bradley the only two other sure-fire starters up the spine. (Landon Donovan has been hobbled by injury, and his future is uncertain.) Were Dempsey to be marked out of a game, the Americans would be in dire straits. Whether it is Johnson, Herculez Gomez, Jozy Altidore or a player yet to be named, finding Dempsey some support will be critical before the Hexagonal bites this March.