A week removed from an English transfer storm, Clint Dempsey has settled in with the U.S. national team ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz at Kingston’s National Stadium.
Dempsey’s unsettled club situation — Stay at Fulham? Move to Liverpool? Aston Villa? Spurs? — was a major reason for his omission from the U.S. roster for the Mexico friendly at Azteca last month. And while matters dragged on, the Texan didn’t prepare for the Premier League campaign in a common manner and missed the first three weekends of the season. His last competitive match was the June 12 qualifier at Guatemala — a stretch of nearly three months.
To what extent Dempsey will factor into Friday’s plans, Juergen Klinsmann won’t say. But after seeing Dempsey in a few sessions at the Miami camp, Klinsmann offered this update on the Spurs acquisition: “Things are looking pretty good. He’s very excited about things, how they finished after the difficult time trying to transfer and moving on to Tottenham Hotspur. He looks good, he looks sharp in training and overall the last three or four days went really well.”
Klinsmann must also take into account Dempsey’s fitness and form for Tuesday’s return match in Columbus.
As for Dempsey’s thoughts, he answered questions from U.S. and Jamaican reporters before Thursday’s session in Kingston...
“I feel good. I got some training sessions under my belt. It’s been good to get back in with the guys. We’re looking forward to these games and making sure we put ourselves in the driver’s seat [in the group] and take advantage of the opportunity ahead of us.”
What’s your fitness like?
“I was able to do some fitness in England. When I got [to U.S. camp], we were able to see what my base [of fitness] was. They were happy with that, but you can’t really replicate what it is like to play in a game until you get out and play in it and train in the type of conditions with humidity and heat. That’s been more of an adjustment. You try to work on your sharpness, and that’s going to come with games.”
How many minutes can you go?
“I’m not going to say. Whatever they call on me to do, I will be out there as long as I can or do the best I can do. You know me: I want to play, and if I can, run myself until I am in the ground. I’m not going to put a number on it.”
Mentally, is there a relief now that the club situation is settled?
“Yeah, for sure. It’s good to have it behind me now and looking toward the future. Excited about the qualifiers, but also excited about the opportunity of playing with a team like Tottenham and working hard and breaking into the lineup.”
What hurt the most about the transfer saga?
Just the way it ended [at Fulham]. Disappointed with the way I was portrayed. That’s in the past now. I just want to thank the fans for 5 ½ great years, thank the chairman for taking a chance on me from MLS. I will always look back on my time there with a smile on my face.”
How much did it sting when Fulham Manager Martin Jol said you turned your back on the club?
“Everybody has the right to their own opinion, but I put in some good work there, a good 5 ½ years. The job I did there, I don’t think you can really question my heart: I put everything into every game. That’s what I have always done my whole career. I look back at the time with no regrets.”
What are these days like, between the club situation, reporting to U.S. camp, flying to Jamaica and then Columbus before heading back to London?
“It’s definitely been a roller-coaster, up and down. It definitely was a stressful time because you don’t know where you are going. Any time you have a chance at a move, it’s something you really have to think about. … It’s a new team to get adjusted to and where you are going to fit in, because it’s not guaranteed when you make moves that it’s going to work out.”
The USA has never won a qualifier in Jamaica...
“It’s going to be difficult. Any team on home soil in World Cup qualifiers is always difficult because they have the fans behind them and they are fighting for an opportunity at the World Cup. … They are a very athletic team, they have quality and it’s going to be a tough team to break down.”
Without Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, how much more difficult will it be?
“It’s difficult when you have injuries, but every team has to deal with that aspect. The good news is, they’ll be back soon and we’ll need them for the future, but we have a lot of quality on this team. I wasn’t in the game in Mexico and the team was able to get a result, so it shows they have a lot of fight and character.”