When Clint Dempsey wasn't selected for the World Cup Qualifiers in November, many wondered whether his time with the US National Team was up. His form with the Sounders wasn't exactly waning, but he was turning 33 in March, which means he's edging closer to the end of his career for club and country. His performances leading up to this Copa America weren't exactly awe-inspiring either. But in the tournament itself, and especially after the game against Colombia, Deuce has proven why he's still integral to the success of his country.
Against Los Cafateros, Dempsey was stranded up top trying to influence the game in a formation that didn't suit him for the Sounders or the Stars and Stripes. Sigi Schmid has even had Dempsey start in midfield in a 4-3-3 at times, which has contributed to his slow start at club level. After that poor outing, many wondered whether it was worth dropping Deuce for almost anyone else. But with his goal and accidental assist against Costa Rica, Deuce woke from his slumber, and has taken this team on his back to the semifinals.
Of course he's not alone in dragging the US off the edge of the cliff and on to solid ground. John Brooks and Bobby Wood have a lot to do with why the US is here right now. But without Dempsey's goals, the US flatly wouldn't be here. His goals against Paraguay in Philadelphia and Ecuador were trademark Clint Dempsey goals that he has made a living off scoring. He'll move his way into the penalty area, then ghost in-between the two central defenders somehow unnoticed, and then latch onto the end of a cross and put a shot past an unsuspecting keeper. While that has been his trademark for years for both club and country, what he's been doing outside of the goals is truly what has set him apart in this tournament.
Against Colombia he was stranded up top, trying to drop deeper into midfield to retrieve the ball and influence the movement forward, but without anyone else with him, it was a fruitless exercise. Once Jurgen Klinsmann shifted away from that 4-3-3 into more of a 4-4-2 look with Dempsey alongside Bobby Wood, his ability to ghost between the lines and drop into midfield to gain possession and influence the US' movement. For what the US lacks in certain positions going forward, they make up for it with Deuce's unique skill set that should drive how the team plays, because when it does the US becomes a different and altogether more threatening attacking side. His big game pedigree is also unquestionable.
When the US plays Argentina, the odds will be against them. Not only will they be missing three critical players themselves, but it's Argentina with Messi, Higuain, Mascherano and all the rest. Dempsey will likely be feeding on scraps because of who the US is playing, which means when he does see the ball, every touch and every moment will be that much more important. Right now, he's the most clinical finisher wearing red, white and blue, and in order to not just stick with la Albiceleste but to beat them, they will need to take the few chances they get and convert them. Argentina's defense has been suspect at times in this tournament, and Dempsey's movement and involvement could be just what the US needs to spring a surprise.
It's almost inconceivable to think that after the 2-0 loss against Colombia that some were suggesting Dempsey shouldn't be starting for the US anymore. While there were valid reasons to suggest that, his performances since then have shown why even at his age he is still one of the most important and one of the best players for the US right now and into the immediate future.
Lesson learned: never doubt Deuce.