Clint Dempsey was not named to the United States' roster for their first two 2018 World Cup qualifiers. His omission caused some to wonder if the 32-year-old was being phased out of the national team and whether the end of his international career was near. Dempsey doesn't think that's the case.
Jurgen Klinsmann said Dempsey being left off the team wasn't a sign of things to come and Dempsey doesn't think it is either. In an interview with KESN 103.3 FM in Dallas, Dempsey said that he thinks he'll play a role with the national team again.
"I felt good with my return this year with the national team," Dempsey said. "I think I played in 10 games, scored nine goals. I’ve enjoyed my time playing for the country. I still think that there’s some more games to be played. But at the same time, it’s the travel of playing with the USA (that) takes a toll on your body.
"That’s kind of what caused me to start getting some injuries at the beginning of this year. Especially that trip to Switzerland (in March) where I got off the plane and trained and picked up that (hamstring) injury. That kind of started my injuries off for this year because the year before that I didn’t have one. So I just got to be smart about how I keep my body in top form and make sure that if I get called on again that I’ll be able to go represent."
The U.S. plays matches in both North America and Europe with regularity so whether a player is in MLS or Europe, there is going to be heavy travel. That especially takes a toll on older players whose bodies don't recover quite as well and for MLS players, when that's combined with the long travel required to play in the league, things get especially difficult.
Leaving Dempsey off of the team isn't a killer and it's about as good a time as possible. St. Vincent and the Grenadines are the weakest team that the U.S. will face in qualifying and, especially at home, the Americans shouldn't have any problem winning that match without Dempsey. The next contest, at Trinidad and Tobago, is a rough one, but the U.S. will be underdogs regardless and they don't need a point out of that match to qualify for the next round of qualifying with relative ease.
Dempsey probably won't determine points in these matches, nor do the U.S. need him to. Now he can start a long offseason that will give his body a chance to recover and heal. He'll get back into action during January camp, hopefully fresh and ready for an important 2016 that will see the stretch run of the semifinal round of qualifying, the beginning of the Hex and Copa America Centenario.
As for his long-term future, Dempsey isn't making any promises, nor does he expect one from Klinsmann.
"It’s kind of one of those things you just kind of take it year to year to see how your body’s feeling," Dempsey said, "and to see if you’re playing well enough to get called in — to make sure that you’re doing what you need to do to get those looks in camp.
"If you’re not playing well enough for your club, then you’re probably not going to get those looks for country. And at the same time, if your body’s not right, then you can’t do anything there. So I just got to make sure that I’m focused, take care of my body, keep producing on the club level and we’ll see where things go from there."
Father time remains undefeated. Dempsey knows that and whenever age catches up with him, don't expect an elegant farewell. Landon Donovan didn't get it and Carlos Bocanegra was pushed out in the middle of World Cup qualifying. That's usually how these things go and probably how it will go for Dempsey. But we'll see how long he makes it. And maybe, if everything works out, he will make it to 2018 and the World Cup, then call it quits after for the exit that all involved would probably want.