The United States defeated Costa Rica 2-0 Saturday night to advance to the 2017 Gold Cup final against Jamaica. After a frustrating first half with several scoring chances, the USMNT finally broke through and scored 2 to hold off Los Ticos. There were a few performances that you could probably argue were good. But, there is only one man we’re going to talk about today.
Clint Dempsey entered the match for the USMNT in the 66th minute to a raucous ovation in his home state of Texas. He was the player many in the crowd of 45,516 came to see, and Deuce did not disappoint. He was the instant spark that the USMNT needed, and he dazzled the crowd with his game from the moment he entered the match.
Dempsey instantly shifted into a role that he’s familiar with, pairing with Jozy Altidore to torment the Costa Rican defense. Their tandem play paid off in the 72nd minute, with Dempsey taking the ball just past midfield with the swagger he normally brings to the field. He put a great touch on the ball to open up some space, zig-zagged past a few Costa Rican defenders and then softly slipped the ball through to Altidore in just the right spot for Altidore to slam it home past a closing Patrick Pemberton.
But did you think Dempsey was done? Not a chance. Dempsey was there to put on a show, and he was not finished entertaining the fans. In the 82nd minute, Deuce decided it was time for a little history. After a foul drawn by Kellyn Acosta, Dempsey lined up for a free kick about 25 yards out. Now, many thought that Dempsey was going to try and shoot the ball over the wall and curl it far post. But nah, that’s not Deuce’s style. Deuce’s clever form of swagger was to shoot around the wall low as if to say “it doesn’t matter, because you’re not getting it anyway.” Before Pemberton even had a chance to really react to it, the ball was humming along the ground near post past his outstretched hand into the net.
Deuce knew what he had done and was entering full celebration mode for the 57th time before the ball even skipped into the net. That goal tied him with Landon Donovan for most goals in USMNT history and with Donovan looking on with pride, Dempsey couldn’t help but look up towards the booth and give him a salute.
Dempsey provided the spark, the swagger, the power, the creativity and had a goal and an assist to send Costa Rica packing and the USMNT onto the Gold Cup final. One of the big debates over the past year has been whether Clint Dempsey has the juice left to really be a starter or even a super sub for the USMNT. Well, when the chips are against him, when everyone counts him out, it’s that moment that Deuce shows you why he is still deserves to be on this team.
In the best match for the USMNT, it was the 34-year-old super sub from Nacogdoches, Texas that came on the field and instantly lit up the night. The stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of the Texas, and Dempsey picked the perfect night for his star power to shine the brightest. There’s no question who the Man of the Match was Saturday night. Clint Dempsey was that man. Real recognize real. Don’t tread on this.
What do you think? Was Deuce the man? Was it someone else? Hit the comments and have your take!