When will Clint Dempsey retire from the national team? If you thought he surely would call it quits before Russia in 2018, you can quit holding your breath. The 33-year-old was the unquestioned leader of the American offense, regaining the spotlight by doing the same things he's always done: battling when the chips were stacked against him and trying stuff most other people would be afraid to try. He's got the stats to prove it, too.
Chances Created: 25
No real need to wax eloquent on intangibles here. Dempsey led the U.S. in almost every statistical category attributed to offense, including an incredible 20 total shots on the tournament (the next highest people aiming for the target? Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones. They had 5). He didn't just run the offense; he dragged it kicking and screaming into the semifinals. His performance on home turf in Seattle was the highlight of his tournament, bagging the opening goal and then providing an assist for Gyasi Zardes in what turned out to be the game-winner. He could've been in Golden Boot contention as well, if not for two phenomenal David Ospina saves on a pair of free kicks, one in the first match of the tournament, the other in the U.S.'s last.
Being a tactical problem is typically one that you can gloss over by scoring lots of goals, which Dempsey did this tournament, and became probably the second-most important player on the field because of it. The fact remains that Dempsey just isn't the guy to run the point of a 4-3-3 against top international competition. Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood, and even Gyasi Zardes are much more suited to the lone striker role than Deuce. He was much more comfortable when the U.S. reverted to a more 4-4-2 look, but playing with just two central midfielders turned out to be an absolute train wreck against Argentina, and didn't work against Colombia, despite a more spirited effort the second time around. Dempsey is the second all-time scorer for the United States, but that doesn't mean he still can't give coaches a headache at times.
Copa Grade - A-
If you score as many goals as Dempsey did, tactical maneuvering has to make room for you. Dempsey slides in just behind John Brooks at the head of the Copa class.
I seriously doubt Dempsey will have another club besides Seattle Sounders the rest of his career, so barring a trade or some other MLS finagling, he'll keep scoring goals in rave green and wait for more U.S. call-ups. He'll be 35 in 2018. Don't think for a second that's going to stop him. In the meantime, there's a certain other forward in Seattle we'll all hope he can teach a thing or two while we wait for the road to Russia to unfold.