Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Clint Dempsey (sporting new tattoo at left) will earn his 50th cap if he takes the field against Costa Rica, completing a half-century of appearances in a national team career that has spanned just over four and a half years. Before the game at Estadio Saprissa, the MNT Blog sat down with Dempsey to discuss the path of his career:
MNT Blog: You're sitting on the cusp of 50 caps for your country. Did you ever think you would get this far in your career?
Clint Dempsey: “It was something I always dreamed of, but I didn’t know how realistic it was. I remember I got my first call-up, but I couldn’t go because I’d broken my jaw and I was devastated. But I came back, got my call-up again, and my first game I got to play for the national team was a World Cup qualifier against Jamaica. And it was an awesome experience, a dream come true. To think right now that this will be my 50th game is crazy, because time really does fly. It seems like just yesterday was my first game for the Revolution in my professional career and my first cap for the national team.”
MNTB: What do you remember about your debut against Jamaica?
CD: It was in Columbus, and I remember Eddie Johnson scoring a great goal [in a 1-1 draw]. I remember we had the old school jerseys on for that game, and it was kind of cool that my first cap with the national team was the day that they were showing love to the people before them by wearing the traditional jersey.”
MNTB: Did you keep that jersey? It's one of the favorites amongst our fans...
CD: “I did, I do have it. There’s only a few of them I’ve kept. I’ve kept that one and the one from the World Cup that I got all the players to sign. So those are the two jerseys I have from the national team.”
MNTB: Fast forward to the middle of 2005 and your first goal which came against England. It came at the same stadium that we'll be playing in this Saturday against Honduras – Soldier Field.
CD: “It was great, because it was an important game, playing against a big team. I got to start against them, so I was excited about that, but I knew it was going to be a tough game and I just wanted to go out there and do well. They were beating us 2-0, and I was able to get a goal late in the second half to give us a chance to get back in the game and get a result. It was awesome to get my first goal against such a big team and against a good goalie in David James.”
MNTB: Moving on to 2006 and the World Cup, where you scored a goal in the USA's final group game against Ghana. Scoring a goal on the stage like that must be an outstanding part of any player’s career...
CD: “That is the highlight of my career. As a kid, [playing and scoring in a World Cup is] what I always dreamed about. When I started realizing how big soccer was, you start to understand that is the biggest stage that you could be on. To make the World Cup team was a dream come true, but to actually get my first start against Italy, and then start and get the goal against Ghana that for a little while gave our country hope that all we needed was one more goal to get to the next round…to me that was priceless.”
MNTB: Now we move onto this World Cup cycle where you've played an important role all throughout qualifying. You've scored four goals, tied for second on the team. What's it like to be involved in a road to the World Cup from the very first step?
CD: “I’m lucky to be on a team that has a lot of guys who have already been through this and done it a few times. You know you’ve got to get down to business and take care of what’s ahead of you in these games, and there’s a quiet confidence in our team and I think that spreads. It’s been great to be a part of that and get an idea of what it really is like to be involved from the beginning all the way to the end. Hopefully we qualify for the World Cup, and I’ll be able to do the complete cycle.”
MNTB: The life of a footballer is extraordinarily fast-paced, whether you're playing dozens of games in Europe or jetting across the Atlantic Ocean to meet up with the national team before a big game. Do you ever get time to reflect on your career or look back on your 50 caps and the journey it took to get there?
CD: “It’s such a whirlwind that you don’t really have time to reflect much. There’s times I’ll talk with my friends or my family. I’ll say ‘Man, just yesterday I was in high school and trying to make it to college.’ I look at where I came from in Nacogdoches, Texas, to playing in a World Cup, playing for my country and playing in one of the biggest leagues in the world in England — it’s crazy to think. But if it wasn’t for hard work and a little bit of luck, things wouldn’t have worked out that way.”
MNTB: And taking the time to reflect on things means you're looking backwards and not ahead?
CD: “You really can’t sit and think too much about it, because you’ve got to go that much further, and you need to shoot higher and higher. So I try to reflect, but it’s difficult because you just don’t have much time. It’s the life you choose, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Posted at 1:28 PM