USMNT: Why Clint Dempsey's Move Is Good for US Soccer

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USMNT: Why Clint Dempsey's Move Is Good for US Soccer
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

At first blush, Clint Dempsey's record MLS transfer from the EPL may seem like a nasty blow to American pride. Our biggest European football star called it quits on his European career.

Of course, this follows the three most productive years of Dempsey's career.

Three years that were anything but smooth sailing professionally but unarguably the three years that will define Dempsey's legacy—unless the gambit pays off and Dempsey plays a glorious swan song on the world's biggest football stage, the World Cup.

We are sure to hear from Dempsey himself in the coming days, but for now we are left speculating why Dempsey would leave European football now. 

His club situation is a mess, no doubt, but one would have to figure that if Gareth Bale leaves Tottenham Hotspur that Dempsey would have been a valuable talent for Andre Villas-Boas to call on. Why isn't Dempsey tempted by the challenge of helping fill Bale's size 11 Adidas?

Even if White Hart Lane was a rotten place to continue his career, why not choose another European club?

 

Because he is more tempted by World Cup glory.

And who can blame him?

Since the 2010 World Cup, Dempsey made an average of 43.7 club appearances per year. Over that same time span Chris Wondolowski, an MLS workhorse, made an average of 33.3 club appearances per year.

And, since MLS stubbornly refuses to adopt FIFA's international calendar, Dempsey will likely miss the Sounders' games on Sept. 4, 7 and 13 to play Hex qualifiers against Costa Rica on Sept. 6 and Mexico on Sept. 11, plus the Sounders' Oct. 9 and 13 games to finish qualification against Jamaica on Oct. 11 and Panama on Oct. 15.

That could mean 15 fewer games on Dempsey's 30-something frame heading into next summer's World Cup, and it could very likely be more as the U.S. team finishes its World Cup preparations after qualifying.

So we're talking about a fairly substantial 25 percent workload reduction.

Of course, this workload reduction cuts both ways—competitive games improve a player's stamina and technical acuity. Factor in the lower level of competition Dempsey will face in MLS (sorry MLS fans, but you know it's true) and no doubt many people will make a strong case that Dempsey is hurting his World Cup preparations with the move.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In fact, given how Jurgen Klinsmann is always on about players constantly challenging themselves, and that he specifically called out Dempsey before on this, it would be easy to imagine that Klinsmann will not be too thrilled by this development.

I'm sure we'll hear from the coach soon enough. 

Clint Dempsey, however, is no spring chicken, and it is hard to imagine that he will get any sharper playing at a higher level for the next 11 months. The more likely scenario is that Dempsey picks up an injury or two or three, gets physically worn out from too many appearances and mentally worn out from playing in front of the British media, and shows up at the World Cup more tired than he was in 2010 when his performances were widely panned for their lack of energy.

No, U.S. fans, Dempsey knew he would have to head home eventually, and the time was right. He leaves Europe at the peak of his career before his body and career decline, and he will be as fresh as a college player when the Nats land in Brazil.

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With a refreshed Landon Donovan by his side, the Americans will field their strongest, most experienced team ever in a FIFA World Cup.

The jury will be out for several years on whether or not this move was good for Dempsey, the Sounders and MLS, but in the short run this is great news for the U.S. men's national team.

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