US Soccer: Why Clint Dempsey Has Always Been Better Than Landon Donovan

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2012

BOLTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07:  Clint Dempsey of Fulham leaps into the air to celebrate after scoring his first goal from a free kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Fulham at Reebok Stadium on April 7, 2012 in Bolton, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

As all American and international soccer fans may know by now, Clint Dempsey is having a career season at Fulham in the English Premier League and could be on his way out of the London club to greener pastures in the summer.

What fans may not know is that Dempsey has been the best American player for years now, even with golden boy Landon Donovan getting all the attention.

While Donovan has been sweeping all the Player of the Year honors back in Los Angeles with the L.A. Galaxy of MLS with the spotlight on him and David Beckham, Dempsey has been working his way up the food chain in England and proving his worth in Europe—something Donovan could never do.

The two have taken different paths: Donovan made a move to Europe early as he signed with Bayer Leverkusen in 1999, but he could never find success in Germany and after two years, he returned home to MLS on loan to play with the San Jose Earthquakes and then eventually the Galaxy.

Dempsey came through the American ranks, going to Furman University and then playing for the New England Revolution in MLS, where he won two MLS Cups before moving to London to play with Fulham in 2007.

While at Fulham, Dempsey has stood out as the club's top player and has provided magical moments, like his goal against Juventus in the Europa League during the 2009-10 season—where Fulham made the final and eventually lost.

Donovan, 30, has taken his talents back to Europe on a few occasions, but only two-month loan spells during the MLS offseason that included stops at Bayern Munich and Everton. Both loan spells have produced momentary success, but nothing more, as Donovan always goes back to his comfort zone in Los Angeles, where he can be the star.

Even on the American national team, Dempsey has been the star that has shone brighter on the pitch. Yes, we all remember Donovan having earned Best Young Player at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and his goal against Algeria to clinch advancement into the knockout stage in the 2010 edition of the tournament.

But if it was not for Dempsey's run down the pitch and attempt on goal that resulted in Donovan's rebound goal, would Americans have the same opinion of Donovan as the so-called golden boy of American soccer?

At 29, Dempsey is about have a huge payday in his near future, whether it is a contract extension with Fulham or a big deal with another European club so he can challenge himself further in European football.

On the other hand, Donovan will most likely end his career in MLS as a designated player. He'll collect more awards and eventually become the most capped player in the history of U.S. Men's Soccer—he is only 26 caps behind Cobi Jones—but he will never have the amount of success that Dempsey is having overseas.

Further, he will never earn the respect of European fans, because he has never proven himself in one of the top leagues in football.