Just how good is Clint Dempsey?

By: timbersfan , 1:23 AM GMT on March 04, 2012

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With all the talk focused on England’s defeat to the Netherlands, you may have missed another result from last night that really was something special. No, I don’t main France’s victory against Germany in Bremen, I’m referring to a match that occurred further south on the continent.

Yesterday the USA travelled to Genoa and beat Italy 1-0. It was the first time Team USA had beaten the four time World Cup winners – a winless streak covering 10 games and spanning 78 years. A remarkable result, albeit in a friendly, for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team.

The goal scorer was Clint Dempsey, receiving a perfectly weighted pass just inside the Azzuri box which he was able to strike first time with his right foot, directing the ball past Gianluigi Buffon and into the bottom corner of the net. It was a moment of well timed precision that should take the Fulham midfielder’s reputation higher than that of his compatriots, past and present, and could perhaps see him soar into the realms only known by America’s national bird.

Last night’s strike was Dempsey’s 25th in 83 international appearances. That’s quite a remarkable return for a player more often than not deployed in midfield. To put it into context, Steven Gerrard has scored 19 goals for England in 90 appearances. Cristiano Ronaldo has 32 goals in 88 appearances for Portugal. Xabi Alonso has 12 goals in 93 appearances for Spain. For the Dutch, Dirk Kuyt has 24 goals in 85 appearances. Dempsey’s international record holds up against, and in many cases betters, the leading names in world football, players who play a similar attacking midfield role. At the 2006 World Cup, Dempsey was the only American player to score at the tournament. At the 2009 Confederations Cup, the Texan was on target as USA beat Spain 2-0 in the semi-finals. He scored again in the final, against Brazil. England fans will of course remember his goal at the 2010 World Cup – although Rob Green must take some credit for that one.

At club level, Dempsey’s record continues to stand up. His goal in Fulham’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool earlier this season saw him overtake Brian McBride to become the most prolific American goalscorer in the history of the Premier League. He has reached double figures this season for the second season in succession – a feat not easily acheived in England’s top flight. 24 players scored over 10 goals last season. Of those 24, only four (Dempsey, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Fletcher) have reached double figures so far this term. His exquisite chip against Juventus in 2010 as Fulham came back to win 4-1 against the Italian titans in the Europa League will forever be among the greatest goals witnessed at Craven Cottage.

Despite operating at such a high level for the last couple of years, it seems that only now is the 28-year-old coming to the world’s attention. Ahead of the Cottagers’ FA Cup tie with Everton, his American teammate Tim Howard singled him out, saying that Fulham were over reliant on the former Dallas Texans youth player. And he’s right, they are – in the same way Manchester United aren’t the same without Rooney, Liverpool miss Gerrard or Arsenal struggle without Robin van Persie. Every team has their talisman – Dempsey is Fulham’s.

Dempsey has the ability to dribble with the ball, albeit in a rough, somewhat out of control manner. He can score from distance. He positions himself so he can poke it in from a couple of yards. He can play on the wing, in central midfield or as a striker, with or without a partner. There is a strong argument that he is the best at heading the ball in the Premier League.

For all this, since joining Fulham in a £2m deal from MLS side the New England Revolution in 2007 – he has rarely been linked with a move away from SW6. When possible clubs are suggested, the consensus has always been (at least up until now) he’s not quite good enough for one of the established top sides – a Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal. But that conclusion doesn’t match the analysis. It says more about the accord many football fans have of American born players. This is a player who produces consistently first-rate performances for his club side, has shown the class needed on the world stage and at 28-years-old, is in the prime of his career. Surely this summer his club side will be tempted by some serious offers. Fulham should do all that they can to retain the American’s services, but the Cottage may not be big enough to hold this Eagle, who right now is flying.

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