Clint Dempsey: Keyser Söze Is In The Building


Writer Jason Lemire has worked in the front offices of several MLS franchises and most recently was General Manager of The Pali Blues Soccer Club during the ascendance of the Tony Danza Army. 

In the words of U.S. Customs Special Agent Dave Kujan, “A rumor’s not a rumor that doesn’t die.” Come Monday morning, Keyser Söze will officially be in the building.

Predictably, the comments section of every website from ESPNFC to Uncle Snuffy’s Backyard Kickaround (pretty sure that’s a soccer blog) are currently being filled with posts decrying this move as the worst thing to happen to US soccer since… well… anything involving Freddy Adu.

The collective disgust – yes, people are “disgusted” – reads more or less like this:

“WHAT? MLS is a major step down for a player still in his prime!”

“This runs counter to Klinsmann’s “take it to the next level” credo!”

“Clint is giving up on his dreams!”

“Clint won’t be as good in Brazil 2014 because of this move!”

And all of it is either somewhat shortsighted, or perfectly represents an ethos among a certain American soccer fans that frankly needs adjusting.

All hail....

All hail….

With this in mind, let us consider how maybe, just maybe, this move is a good thing, and how said good thing would ultimately debunk the above concerns.

1. What makes a transfer a good transfer?

Assuming we are looking at the situation through the lens of an American soccer fan who cares about both the US National Team and the growth of our sport as a whole, assessing the quality of an individual player’s transfer generally comes down to the question of: will this move help the player develop. There is little debate that at this point in time, the big leagues of Europe have the capacity to both accelerate and hone the technical and tactical development of a young player in a manner superior to MLS. If you want to debate this point that’s fine, but for the time being let’s operate under the assumption that Clint Dempsey would not have developed into the elite international player that he is today had he stayed with the New England Revolution.

Fine. Now back to the original question: will this move help the player develop. And that is the question we must ask now. Clint is 30. His technical and tactical development has, for all intents and purposes, happened; which means that the usual considerations that go into assessing the value of a transfer kind of go out the window. I am not talking about sharpness or quality of opposition here (more on that later), I am strictly examining where it is that Clint’s game still has room to grow, and I would submit that the answer is neither technically nor tactically. Nor does Clint need to develop his ability to “handle the big game”, as this is something he has been dealing with his whole career, and indeed his entire life. No, there is only one area where Clint still has real room to develop: leadership.

Read interviews with members of the national team and they will all say that Clint is a guy who “leads by example.” But the fact is, once you’re named captain of your national team, the guy tasked with leading the troops both on the field and in the locker room, “leading by example” just isn’t good enough. Though personable and charismatic off the field, Clint clearly comports himself with something of a lone wolf persona, occasionally letting other guys into his world (see his 2011 Gold Cup celebration with Landon), but for the most part playing the role of brooding gunslinger. The only trouble is, such a persona does not lend itself to the kind of leadership a team needs to succeed over the course of a tournament like the World Cup, and though there are a handful of other players in the locker room who could potentially fill that role, they are not wearing the armband.

People often regard leadership as an intangible quality, something you have or you don’t; but such a concept for leadership underestimates the degree to which it is a skill that can be cultivated. Indeed, there are entire sections of the bookstore dedicated to the cultivation of leadership skills, and the reason why such books continue to sell is because a lot of them work.

So, if the most glaring hole in Dempsey as a player is his leadership ability, it seems that American fans should be judging the quality of his transfer on whether or not his new team presents the sort of environment where he might be able to cultivate this skill. Let’s see, how about a team stocked with talent but short on cohesion and morale in the middle of a desperate playoff push; a team where being an American gets you instant respect instead of instant skepticism; and a team that has among the best youth set ups for young American players in the world, all of whom would be grateful to learn from a player who has succeeded at the international level. Might that be a good place to take one’s identity as a captain “to the next level”?

2. What’s more important, being “fresh” or being “sharp”?

We had fun, didn't we?

We had fun, didn’t we?

Or perhaps the better question is, “how sharp can you be if you’re 31 and exhausted?” Reasonable people can debate which league is “the best”, but it is clear that the EPL has built its global brand on being the most physically explosive and demanding league in the world. So it begs the question, had Dempsey stayed in the EPL, what kind of shape would his body have been in come June 2014? There is a big difference between being 27 and being 31.

For those US fans who wring their hands at the notion that Clint will somehow lose his edge upon rejoining the MLS, what exactly do you think happens to Clint’s “edge” when he spends a month in pre-Cup camp training with his US teammates, hardly any of whom play in the EPL? “Oh no, Matt Besler is defending me in a scrimmage, now I can’t remember how a Cruyff turn works!” Or is it more, “Oh Kyle Beckerman, beating you on the dribble is sooo easy, now my muscle-memory will think this is how easy it is every time!” The whole thing is just nonsense. It’s one thing if you have never faced top class defenders day in and day out. That’s why young players should go to Europe. But Clint has, for seven years. He’s not going to forget just because he spends a couple months going against Jamison Olave. Oh wait, Jamison Olave actually isn’t that bad.

Winters off do a 30+ year old body good. Fresh equals sharp. Sharp equals goals.

3. But what will I tell my English friends and casual associates?

Admit it. If you are one of those people lamenting Dempsey coming back to the league “while he still has 2 to 3 EPL quality years in him”, the real thing you are concerned about is how you are going to show your face at that English pub you go to to watch your “football.” Well, to borrow one of the island’s more charming terms, “sod off.”

Seriously? Are you really serious right now? Look. The strength and quality of soccer in this or any country is defined in two ways and two ways only: how good is your domestic league and how well does your national team perform in international competitions? Everything else is crap. Dempsey moving to the Sounders improves him, improves our chances in Brazil, and improves our domestic league. Done deal.

(I could go on for several pages about how useless it is to seek the approval of ex-pat Englishman when it comes to soccer. I won’t. But if you do, stop it.)

4. But what will Klinsmann think? (Secretly this is still about those English guys at the pub.)

Honestly, anyone trying to answer this question would probably be better served contemplating how life would have evolved on this planet without a moon; however, one thing that does appear clear about Klinsmann is that man likes to take the long view. And with this in mind, what is better for the long term health of the sport in this country: Clint going to Everton and having a good year, or Clint becoming the defining face and personality of a league poised to blossom in the next five to ten years. “But, but, all those English guys would have nodded approvingly at my Everton jersey, and then I could have engaged them in a conversation about the Merseyside derby and then we could talk about how I spent a semester abroad once and how I played a few years of college ball but really the highlight for me was when I was actually in a pub in London when…”

Sod off.

48 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dth on 2013/08/03 at 11:36 PM

    5. But does it help Seattle?: not sure! The club already has looked disjointed on more than a few occasions. Is Clintinho the solution to those problems? Not sure! I thought Seattle needed a connecting box-to-box midfielder, a la an Ilkay Gundogan. (Or, to use a more parochial but less defensively responsible version, a Mix Diskerud.)

    But then again, if a player like Clint is available, you take him and figure him out, right? Fit be damned? This feels like a Real Madrid-type move in terms of on-the-field impact.

    Off-the-field, of course, it’s brilliant. Would love to see if Seattle moves to opening up more sections of CenturyLink and trying to sell NFL-type numbers. If so, Seattle will be the true commercial giants of MLS.


    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/08/04 at 11:23 AM

      Not a huge follower of Seattle (or the MLS for that matter) but they had Brad Evans playing AM in a 4-4-2 diamond last night. Dempsey can easily slide in their and improve the team.

      Not saying it was the best move for the Sounders but I don’t see how Dempsey as AM is not much much better than Evans.


      • Posted by Spiritof76 on 2013/08/04 at 11:43 AM

        Goes back to “#4 – What will Klinsmann think?”

        W/ Clint at AM Evans can go get reps in at RB 😉


      • Posted by dth on 2013/08/04 at 6:58 PM

        I’m just not sure Dempsey is well-suited as a CAM. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong. Anyway, we’ll see. I can definitely imagine a situation in which Martins, EJ and Dempsey all want to be in the same spots.


    • Posted by mbw on 2013/08/04 at 1:08 PM

      I think the question is whether or not they’re still one piece short — whether they really need a Reyna type to keep possession and switch the field or a connector like Gundogan, or whether they can make do without (as Houston and this year’s Galaxy have done).

      On another topic, intriguing things going on in DC. Wednesday night’s game holds much more interest than it did a couple weeks ago.


      • Posted by dth on 2013/08/04 at 6:57 PM

        Love DC’s new young talent. Jeffrey is the *type* of connecting box-to-boxer I was thinking of, actually. (Jeffrey’s not all there as a passer, and his fouling is excessively ridiculous, but the Kitchen/Jeffrey pairing has a lot of potential.)

        Martin’s improvement over the past few months has been remarkable. I saw him play France’s u-23s a few months ago, and he was thinking far too slowly for the game. Martin is very ambitious, though, and he signed up for DC. Fast forward, then. All he’s done is play a friendly versus Chivas Guadalajara and a game with Richmond Kickers on loan … and now he has a cameo where he’s thinking a ton faster and showing his skill and passing eye. Clearly someone for the future. The question is how to get he and Silva on the field on the same time.

        Doyle presents a threat to goal, but his movement and hold-up play/passing is quite good. A potential triple threat at forward: a very rare quantity at any level. Kind of shocked he was available from Derby County. (Too bad for him he couldn’t go to Rapids: I think he might have a huge impact on the playoff race for them.)

        Now the question is the ability to overhaul the back four and figure out what to do with problems like Nick de Leon (who is somehow still out of shape) and Chris Pontius (whose injuries mean you can’t count on him; at any rate Pontius is not a terribly sophisticated player offensively. He’s never seen an offensive situation he doesn’t think he can dribble out of.)


    • Posted by Larry on 2013/08/05 at 1:11 PM

      I was at CenturyLink in Seattle when Dempsey stepped on the field with his new jersey. The level of energy on & off the field was astonishing. Sounders scored 2 goals in the first half. Clint is definitely a boost to the team. He’ll have a big impact for sure.


    • Posted by WatertownMA on 2013/08/05 at 5:05 PM

      It would seem that the Dempsey addition helps Seattle during CONCACAF Champions League, no?


  2. Posted by jw on 2013/08/04 at 12:11 AM

    Point #2 is disappointing and full of hyperbole. It doesn’t acknowledge cross country trips and travel in general in MLS can be tough on the body. Travel within the EPL is much easier on the body.

    Also ignores Seattle’s crap turf as well as other poor surfaces in MLS.
    and fresh doesn’t equal sharp. Fresh equals fresh. Fit equals fit. In form equals in form Match sharpness equals match sharpness.


    • Posted by CJ on 2013/08/04 at 4:06 AM

      JW – I would rather travel, sitting down, and be exhausted mentally, which can be recovered in a few days, as opposed to being exhausted physically, from high intensity training all the time, which takes months to recover from.

      I went through Recruit School after not having worked out in my life much. 6 months. 5 days a week. 645am-8am morning PT equivalent to 5k training/adapted crossfit workouts. Sometimes in full structural firefighting gear. Often with 2-3 more workouts later in the day as training really took hold. It took me almost 6 months AFTER training finished for my body to actually feel energized again. I was stronger, I was faster, I had endurance like crazy but, my body was worn out from over exertion.

      That’s from more than cross country trips.


  3. Posted by DB MASHORE on 2013/08/04 at 11:18 AM

    Is there any example anywhere in history where an EPL player left to play in a third-tier league, and then excelled in the World Cup?


    • Posted by Spiritof76 on 2013/08/04 at 11:49 AM

      Landon Donovan?


    • Posted by corn on 2013/08/04 at 2:33 PM

      Implying MLS is third-tier, which is, of course, complete bullshit. Not first-tier, but not third-tier either.


      • Posted by 4now on 2013/08/04 at 6:39 PM

        First Tier:
        -Germany, England, Spain, Italy

        Second Tier:
        -France, Russia, Portugal, Ned

        MLS would be happy to considerate itself a third tier league. And there is nothing really wrong with that…


        • Posted by Raf on 2013/08/05 at 8:03 AM

          Yes on France, though Ligue 1 is notorious for ultra-defensive play; there’s actually more goals scored in MLS than in Ligue 1 per game (2.64 to 2.18, I think). Netherlands, maybe, though it is an entertaining league.

          But Russia? Portugal? What are you basing that assessment on?


          • Posted by Union on 2013/08/05 at 11:27 AM

            Reality. Really? I mean, its not even a question that Portugal is a better domestic league than MLS. Russia is somewhat debatable, but the level of talent their is still higher.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/08/05 at 8:16 AM

      Dempsey is PL quality. He’s proved himself over the last 6 seasons.

      You don’t lose quality overnight, just as you don’t gain quality overnight if a elite team signs you…


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/08/05 at 8:38 AM

        And I would also like to add what I said last summer when Dempsey moved to Tottenham Hotspur: very good PL player but not a good enough acquisition to elevate them into a CL team. Squad player, probably.

        Sad to see him leave the PL as I can see him play more often there than in MLS. But good luck to him. Glad he got a great contract.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/05 at 8:44 AM

          I think he’s somewhere between squad player and starter on a CL team. Fair?


          • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/08/05 at 8:59 AM

            I didn’t mean that in a derogatory way – not implying that he would have only played 5 games thIs year. Just that he would not be ever present as he would have been at Fulham or Everton or Villa, for example. But I guess he’s been there and done that, right?


  4. Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/08/04 at 11:37 AM

    An implied part of all of these discussions but something I haven’t heard directly discussed yet is what is the real level of MLS. I have always thought about MLS as the rough equivalent of the Championship however for the top teams (LA, Seattle, etc) it might be more like relegation candidates in Premier League. If you look at it that way then the Seattle and a big bag of cash is much better than say West Brom/West Ham and as much as it kills me to say Fulham (I feel like they are in for a relegation scrap of a season with some valuable losses and very little in the way of adds).


    • Posted by Spiritof76 on 2013/08/04 at 11:55 AM

      I always think that, probably being a bit over-optimistic, and then I think about how we perform in the CONCACAF champs league, and have those thoughts tempered back down to – top teams are probably Championship level – lower level teams are probably mid-table scottish league. Too harsh?


      • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/08/04 at 5:35 PM

        Big difference between the Man U and Chelsea’s and the Wigan’s an Blackburns of years past.

        The games when you get two teams like QPR and another bottom level teams were pretty unwatchable.

        Not arguing one way or another just feel like when you say PL people think top 7, not QPR and Villa. Really big quality difference between top and bottom tier.


        • Posted by CJ on 2013/08/04 at 6:07 PM

          I’d have to say that in the MLS there’s this paradox where you can watch 3-4 really top level volleys between the two teams on the pitch. Just back and forth amazing offensive and defensive plays, individual skill or teamwork. Then, shit. Just absolute crap. A series of balls played in a row over hit, duffed, whiffed, or general miscommunication between the players. So many of the games go through these awful periods of play where I literally cringe while watching.
          When I watch the Premier League I feel like that is far more rare. What you get are stalemate boring games but, not ones where the players look like a bunch of goofs.
          In MLS I’ll watch a guy give and receive a cross field ball with world class touch and then 15 minutes later he’ll try the same thing and completely gaffe it.
          So, what I think MLS lacks is consistency in its performance. I would add that every year it has gotten better and more games are truly enjoyable shows of sport than say 5-10 years ago.


  5. I think the fact that each game in the MLS this year seems to be a “must-win” (8 points separate 1-6 in the east and 1-8 in the West)… Even though skill level isn’t at the highest level, there won’t be a ton of dog games, because most teams still believe they have a shop. The competitiveness of this league will only make him better.


  6. Posted by ***** on 2013/08/04 at 6:14 PM

    Jason Lemire.
    Wow – small world.
    Nice to see you on TSG, hope you are well…

    J Price


  7. Posted by 4now on 2013/08/04 at 6:47 PM

    Turf, turf, turf.

    Also, and no one seems to be discussing this, one of the things I find appealing is that MLS doesn’t offer crazy-bs inflated salaries like other American leagues…

    MLS has now committed to paying a 34 year old CD $8 million dollars/year.

    That’s inflated and absurd, particularly when you consider that a guy like Matt Besler makes less than $100,000 a year.

    Clint wanted to be a big fish in a little pond and get crap-tons of money for it. That’s his right. But let’s not construct some narrative about “sharpness” and “leadership” “comporting” ourselves in some way that might require knee-pads and that makes us blind to the fact that this is all about being the big man and being compensated heavily for it.

    Donovan makes a quarter his salary. That’s nuts.


    • Posted by jb on 2013/08/04 at 7:15 PM

      Timing is everything. And Clint earned this contract by pushing himself to go play in England for the last seven years, raising his level every step along the way. Besides, I’m sure the Sounders/MLS are going to sell some Dempsey jerseys…


    • ^ This. I’m all for Clint personally getting the most dough before his earning window closes. You gotta look out for yourself in the end. But let’s cut the BS spin about how this isn’t a step backwards for him/US Soccer. It’s an understandable one, sure.

      But don’t kid yourself and buy a narrative where “Clint already has nothing left to prove in the Prem and so returned to his home country in the later years of his career ala Ronaldinho” or some sh*t. The guy was a good player on a mid-low level EPL side. He was never one of the best players in the Prem, never won the CL, never dominated in any true way. Clint is not Ronaldihno.

      What could he have earned by staying in the EPL that he hasn’t already accomplished? Plenty. He is 30 but I’m of a mind you can always get better, even as your body begins to age. The mental facilities involved continue to improve with age, and had Clint stayed in the EPL with someone like Everton I think his game mentally would just be in a better place than with Seattle, loan spell or not.

      Anyways, in the end it’s his right and prerogative to move back home and take that contract since it’s his career.

      But it’s also our right to make the judgment that this move, from the standpoint of how good he will be for the USMNT in 2014, is less than stellar.


      • Posted by john mosby on 2013/08/05 at 6:34 AM

        curry and eggs, if this is a step backwards for US soccer, then when are we going to be taking steps forward, if not now? is US soccer taking a step forward when a guy like conor doyle signs with MLS from derby county, or is this a step backwards also? same question for jared Jefferies?

        is deuce even really going to be that crucial for USA come next summer? how much better is a 31 year old really going to be, playing for everton over seattle? I mean on a scale of 1 to 100, where is everton on the scale and where is seattle?


        • w/r/t a say everton v seattle hypo, I’d say it’s not just the quality of teammates he’d be playing with. While I see that your point is to highlight that playing with everton teammates or seattle ones would both have minimal impact on dempsey, I think that the quality of competition is just as important. And even with mediocre teammates on a mid-low table Prem side he’d still have plenty of opportunities to still be on the same pitch in competition with many world class players with his team takes on the ‘big boys’. That’s something that just isn’t available on a regular basis in MLS, short of a foreign loan spell, and nobody will claim that’s an equivalent substitute.

          i also don’t think its fair to compare the transfer of a guy whose other choice was ostensibly an everton level club with transfers to MLS from a Championship club (and not even a top flight one, currently). As far as jeffrey goes I’m not a fan of moves like his, and I wonder what the reaction would be if someone like john anthony brooks also signed stateside. But I guess I risk being called an ‘euro-snob’ on this site for holding this view…

          I do agree with the gist of your first paragraph, though. “Steps forward” is just a tricky, subjective concept. I guess I was personally thinking, not what the author accused us of (whether the dick europeans at the pub will look down on us or not) and I’m also admittedly not thinking in terms of MLS’s overall health as a league, which Clint’s arrival surely helps. I was thinking from the perspective of “How good a player the USMNT is getting for Rio”. And yes, sadly it looks like Deuce will still be crucial for us. And that says something, doesn’t it, that the same generation of guys that’ve been playing (essentially, tho not in Clint’s case) since 2002 on the int’l stage are still our “stars”. Everyone went on during the Gold cup about Donovan’s return, Wondo’s sudden minutes at age 30, and how we’d dug out Beasely and Johnson off the scrap heap, as if those were positives. Like, yeah it’s a net positive to always have more useful players in the player pool. But those guys are from a generation that should have passed on already, in terms of central prominence, and the fact that we still heavily rely on them isn’t a great thing, IMO. It’s why I spent the whole tournament mainly focused on how Jurgen chose to deploy Mixx+coronoa. But in the end, its looking more and more like we’ll get one more WC out of this generation of guys, and so the same goes with Deuce and why he’ll still be essential in 2014.


          • Curry n’ Eggz,

            I feel compelled to note, as one who clearly bangs the drum against “euro-snobbery”, that I think it would be foolish for someone in John Anthony Brooks’s situation to make the move to MLS. As it would be for Altidore or Bradley or Johannsson or anyone else under, say, 28, who is getting regular minutes in a top quality league. These are players who clearly have a lot left to develop technically and tactically, and England/Holland/Italy/Germany are superior places to do that vs. MLS — provided of course that you’re getting playing time.

            (A guy like Mixx, playing in Norway, or Bedoya for that matter, I have to wonder…)

            I also don’t think that this is a case of Dempsey “having nothing left to prove.” He took a shot last year and he and his team fell short at the one thing he did have left to prove: playing in the CL on a top four team. Dude fell short. I feel for him because it never feels good to fall short of a goal, but I don’t think that Deuce playing a handful of games in the UCL would have made him a better player or magically raised the level for US Soccer. Reasonable folks can disagree. Personally, I just don’t think, at 30 years old, that’s how development works.

            I do stand by the notion that Dempsey, in his move to MLS, has an incredible opportunity to grow into the role of being a true captain and the face of American soccer (a role Donovan has never been truly comfortable with.) I submit this notion regardless of why Dempsey actually made the move. Clearly, the $$$ / big fish / stability narrative makes the most sense, as well as the opportunity to burnish his legacy. I am not disputing this narrative. I am saying that a byproduct of this move will be an environment that could/should force Dempsey to develop the one attribute of his game that he is not too old to demonstrably improve.


          • Posted by J Lemire on 2013/08/05 at 8:05 PM

            Curry n’ Eggz,

            I feel compelled to note, as one who clearly bangs the drum against “euro-snobbery”, that I think it would be foolish for someone in John Anthony Brooks’s situation to make the move to MLS. As it would be for Altidore or Bradley or Johannsson or anyone else under, say, 28, who is getting regular minutes in a top quality league. These are players who clearly have a lot left to develop technically and tactically, and England/Holland/Italy/Germany are superior places to do that vs. MLS — provided of course that you’re getting playing time.

            (A guy like Mixx, playing in Norway, or Bedoya for that matter, I have to wonder…)

            I also don’t think that this is a case of Dempsey “having nothing left to prove.” He took a shot last year and he and his team fell short at the one thing he did have left to prove: playing in the CL on a top four team. Dude fell short. I feel for him because it never feels good to fall short of a goal, but I don’t think that Deuce playing a handful of games in the UCL would have made him a better player or magically raised the level for US Soccer. Reasonable folks can disagree. Personally, I just don’t think, at 30 years old, that’s how development works.

            I do stand by the notion that Dempsey, in his move to MLS, has an incredible opportunity to grow into the role of being a true captain and the face of American soccer (a role Donovan has never been truly comfortable with.) I submit this notion regardless of why Dempsey actually made the move. Clearly, the $$$ / big fish / stability narrative makes the most sense, as well as the opportunity to burnish his legacy. I am not disputing this narrative. I am saying that a byproduct of this move will be an environment that could/should force Dempsey to develop the one attribute of his game that he is not too old to demonstrably improve.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/08/04 at 9:58 PM

      The cost is little issue to me. MLS players are underpaid. Dempsey is more marketing expense and Seattle pet project–word is there was a lot of “fandom” involved in the acquisition.

      What maybe should be more worrying is that the league had to pay up so high for player of less illumination than David Beckham and hope it moves the TV ratings.

      For Americans coming home, there is always a massive premium placed on them when MLS is typically bidding against itself.


  8. Posted by deluxewood on 2013/08/05 at 8:20 AM

    Let’s not also forget the bias, acknowledged or unacknowledged, that a lot of overseas teams have against American players. Dempsey was the fourth leading scorer in the 2011-12 EPL season, playing for a mid-table team. Had he been a British players, I believe clubs would have been screaming for his services. But he’s an American, so he transferred to a club that then wants to replace him a year later. And it can only be good for the national team that Dempsey will be teammates with Eddie Johnson. To be honest, I would have loved for Dempsey to play for Everton because that’s my favorite EPL team. But if Seattle rises up the Western Conference because Dempsey provides a boost for the team, that’s great for Dempsey, the Sounders and MLS. Seattle needs to practice their Deuceface.


    • Posted by Kevin_H on 2013/08/05 at 12:26 PM

      I don’t think an Anti-American stigma explains all of it. Dempsey doesn’t have the pace, finesse, or creative play-making abilities that fans love to see. He gets the job done, but it’s not always pretty. He draws fouls, poaches goals, and has a decent long-range strike, but I guess not everyone appreciates his qualities. He’s also not getting any younger.


  9. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/08/05 at 8:32 AM

    He would have been fresh, because he would not have started every game, and probably less thus season given the transfers in. Now, match sharpness is generally considered the first thing to diminish due to not playing – but I am sure he would have got enough playing time for that not to have happened.


  10. Posted by WEE on 2013/08/05 at 9:14 AM

    The story here centers around Seattle.  This move is further confirmation of their rising world status.  Despite not having the big TV deal that other teams or leagues have, Seattle has large sums of money.  And just consider that with their NFL stadium they can (and may) increase their average attendance by as much as 25K/game (who ever thought the NFL would assist the rise of MLS).  This move may trickle down as a win for MLS, but it is certainly a statement by Seattle that they have arrived on the international stage.  

    I believe a lot of the negative commentary over this move centers around the discomfort that some football fans feel as they notice the world order slowly, but systematically, changing.  As a fan of USMNT and of MLS, their discomfort brings me great joy.


  11. Posted by Union on 2013/08/05 at 12:37 PM

    All of 0 people will probably read this but anyways:

    Truth is, the Dempsey move is pretty inconsequential from a National Team perspective. The guy will be 31 in March 2014. He has one World Cup left in him. 1 year in the MLS won’t change his preparedness for the tournament, especially given the fact that he is expected to go on loan in January (likely to England).

    The argument for me is how this helps the MLS/American soccer. The most obvious argument people make is that the success of American soccer is lockstep with the success of the MLS. And sure, I agree with that. Adding Dempsey to the league automatically raises the quality of players. But, if you are an armchair psychologist of America, you know that what drives America’s interest more than anything is being “the best”. Or at the very least, competing among the best. Dempsey playing alongside guys like Gareth Bale for one of the best teams in England, in my opinion, was hugely important for American soccer. When was the last time an American soccer player had that kind of platform? Never. Donovan at Everton, Gooch at Milan, and even Bradley at Roma don’t really come close. People all over the world watched Tottenham, knew Dempsey, knew he was American (if for no other reason than Dempsey is the most American athlete out there in terms of demeanor), and I genuinely think that type of recognition was hugely important to American soccer. Its all about perception! And while, the reality is, Dempsey playing for the MLS further legitimizes the league in terms of making it better, increasing attendance (both in stadium and on TV), etc. Does it really add to the perception that American soccer is on the rise? That any European club would benefit from an American player? I’m not sure. Because while I agree with Matt that anyone who views this as a step back for Dempsey, an early retirement move, or a failure….is wrong. That doesn’t mean the perception isn’t there.

    Because, while I agree the future of American soccer is in lockstep with the success of the MLS. The only way the MLS succeeds is by gaining American sports fans who at the moment do not watch soccer. And the only way your average American sports fan is going to appreciate soccer, is by watching the European brand first. Falling in love. And then getting into the MLS. Maybe that sounds illogical and simple-minded, but think about it. How many people who visit this forum fell in love with the MLS before they fell in love with European soccer? How many people on this forum know more about the MLS than they do about European players. No one watched the MLS first and EPL second. So I firmly believe that for the MLS to succeed, it needs generic American sports fans to fall in love with the sport. Dempsey created soccer fans in our country. And I would have loved to see him play in Europe for a few more years in order to continue doing so.

    And just a quick sidenote about the MLS. I love where the league is headed. Anyone who watched Galaxy beat Juventus over the weekend knows just how many big strides the league has made in recent year. The academies are really helping. And I think the owners understand how to build the league. That said, these teams should really be investing in young talent. Making it a retirement league for players raises the quality of play in the short term, but it really compromises it in the long term. Domestic leagues are always going to have youth systems driven by domestic players, but why not spend the money on keeping some of these young players around just a little bit longer? Maybe Gideon Zelalem ends up playing for Germany no matter how long he sticks it out in America, but this kid could have been playing in the MLS until his early 20’s like the Brazilians do. If the MLS and its clubs invest in young players and get their academies on track to be at least level (or close to level) with European clubs. That is totally possible. Outside of the top clubs in the world, the US should be able to compete with any academy system out there, especially in terms of kids who are living in the US. But the money needs to be spent there. Oh, and get grass fields. For. Every. Stadium.


    • Posted by mathmatics on 2013/08/07 at 2:30 PM

      So in your model for growing MLS, non-soccer fans will develop an interest in overseas teams, then transfer their interest to the MLS.

      There’s already a sizable demographic of new, Euro-centric soccer fans who are exactly what you described. I credit the rise of online gaming (FIFAs 10-13), the star power of Barcelona/Real Madrid, and number of televised games on espn3, FSC, beIn, et al.

      Wouldn’t Dempsey’s Seattle move be the perfect way to reach this wave of American fans of Euro teams? If this doesn’t get them into MLS, then what would?


  12. Posted by kaya on 2013/08/05 at 12:49 PM

    Hmm. I’m not very sold on the notion of Seattle leading a new world order in the football/soccer world. For that matter, I’m not convinced there are any/many people out there clinging to Clint as their ticket to a delightful conversation about the Merseyside derby with an expat.
    My guess is that Clint is making the Deuce-face every time someone tells him what the latest opinion polls about his transfer indicate.
    Once you have your own family and you are looking at the end of your potential to make great money, you are going to do what you can to maximize it. I don’t see him prancing around in his panties for extra money like Beckham, and I don’t imagine him being a commentator in the long run. He probably wants to go fishing and be done with it once he’s 35-ish. Get it while the gettin is good; I would.


  13. Posted by Crow on 2013/08/05 at 6:10 PM

    Eric Lichaj 90 minutes at RIGHT BACK. Finally given the opportunity to play at his natural position. Hopefully he can keep it up at get back into the mix.

    Dempsey will go down as my favorite athlete of all time when all is said and done. When I first heard the reports I was shocked and somewhat negative. I think I view it mainly as a positive now- I would have loved to see him somehow make CL with some team- Spurs were so close last year and I doubt they will make it this year so I don’t know if Dempsey would have had a chance anywhere to do so. I do wish he would have waited one more year until after the World Cup but I think the deal was too good to pass up.

    When I met Dempsey for the first time at the Salt Lake airport after the Honduras game he looked like a guy who just wanted to get home. He was with his family and he looked tired. I think he was probably eyeing up coming home for awhile and this offer came up. I really wish I would have asked him about the Seattle crowd when I was talking to him. Dempsey reminds me a lot of Josh Hamilton (baseball player). I remember in Josh’s book he admits he loves playing up to the crowd and having people cheer him. He likes showing off whether in batting practice or a game. I think Dempsey probably missed being “the man” last year and this move will scratch that itch as well.

    I think MLS improving and its profile rising is the most important factor of American soccer improving so I am starting to like this move. Will be so hard to cheer against Deuce the occasional time the Union play the Sounders though.

    By the way, did anyone notice the Ultras pathetic “protest” vs Chivas and their brazen website statement against the front office?


  14. Posted by Andrew M. on 2013/08/05 at 10:02 PM

    Matt, I love the way you put point 3. I’ve been trying to articulate that for years!


  15. Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/08/06 at 4:05 AM

    Per Grant Wahl’s piece Dempsey can go on one loan move during the contract. Logic dictates that the loan would be this MLS off season. If we assume he spends two months playing for Everton, Fulham, or possible someone better. That means three months in MLS, two months off, two months against EPL competition, then three months of MLS (some of which is preseason) before the world cup. Even if you don’t think highly of MLS I can see how that is better than say a 9 month season followed by two or three weeks off come the start of the WC camp.


  16. […] It’s important to say this, Stuart Smalley-style, because amid Clint Dempsey’s high profile return to Major League Soccer earlier this month, we saw much apologizing, qualifying, and general rubbing of hands.  Die-hard US fans have a hard time with their shared inferiority complex.  Our take on this whole situation can be summed up in this excellent article over at the Shin Guardian. […]


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