There are six finalists for U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year. We make the case for every nominee: Jermaine Jones was the midfield engine, while Kyle Beckerman brought it all together.
There are a lot of reasons why Clint Dempsey was nominated for U.S. Soccer's Male Athlete of the Year. He was the team's captain in Brazil, after all, scoring two goals in four games and helping the United States to survive the "Group of Death." Dempsey may not have been the team's best player, but there's a fair argument to be made that he was U.S. Soccer's most important.
You could easily argue that Tim Howard had the better overall tournament. Howard was the only reason the United States wasn't completely played off the pitch against Belgium and if not for his amazing goalkeeping, the USMNT probably wouldn't have gotten out of the group stage to begin with.
True as that may be, it's also a bit too literal of a reading. Yes, Howard was the United States "best player" in Brazil. But how much different would the USMNT performance look if not for the leadership and scoring ability of Dempsey? What would have happened to the locker room after the surprising decision to leave Landon Donovan off the World Cup roster if not for Dempsey doing his part as captain to keep the team together? How much different might the Ghana match have gone if Dempsey doesn't score just 34 seconds in? And if Dempsey hadn't been able to change roles on the fly and play striker after Jozy Altidore went down, what would the Americans' goalscoring output look like?
What Dempsey did after that goal was even more impressive, though. As you may remember, a stray
elbow foot from a Ghana player caught Dempsey flush in the nose. He immediately went down with blood pouring. There was little doubt that Dempsey's nose was broken.
But Dempsey not only finished out the game, doing his part to help the United States gut out a 2-1 opening match victory, he also started the next three. When it was all said and done, Dempsey missed just three minutes during the entire tournament. While playing with a broken nose. Sometimes with a mask. Sometimes in oppressive heat and humidity.
There's one more reason Dempsey should win U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year. You remember the goal he scored against Portugal right? It came in the 81st minute and would have qualified the USMNT for the knockout stage if not for a last-second goal by Portugal. But it wasn't just when he scored it or who it was against. No, what makes that goal really remarkable is how he scored it. The cross came in and it kinda hand-cuffed Dempsey, as it was too close to his body to use his feet and too low for him to hit a header. So Dempsey used the tool at his disposal.
Clint Dempsey scored a goal with his crotch (or at least that's what we'll call it in this family publication). That, right there, is America. Give this man his award.