Clint Dempsey: Still a United States Starting Forward
Clint Dempsey should still be a starter for the United States, and his starting allows the United States to have the all-important Dempsey-Christian Pulisic partnership. Although Bruce Arena recently used Dempsey as a super sub due to the quick turnaround in between Gold Cup games, nothing about Dempsey’s play suggest that his fitness level or skill has dropped at all.
In the American player pool, Christian Pulisic is the only other player with the same type of individual skill and ability to win games. There are other American players who can score impressive and important goals, but Dempsey’s creativity and individual skill is still needed; it’s not just nice to have.
Until there is some indication that Dempsey shouldn’t be starting anymore, there’s no reason to even consider it. Bruce Arena has liked starting only one defensive midfielder in Michael Bradley so that Arena can start two forwards, and this means that one of those two forwards should be Dempsey. While Jozy Altidore continues to improve as a player as evidenced by his fabulous freekick goal in the 2017 Gold Cup Final, he probably shouldn’t be starting over Bobby Wood who is more dangerous, more clinical, and more aggressive.
One of the keys for the United States playing at a higher level under Arena is Pulisic and Dempsey playing together, and not starting Dempsey gets rid of this potent combination. For years Dempsey has been playing for the United States with players who are way below his skill level, with the exception of Landon Donovan, and now that Pulisic has arrived, it would be foolish to not use the combination that has seen the United States playing a better brand of soccer. The U.S. is more likely to win with Pulisic and Dempsey playing together, and this partnership is especially needed against elite combination like the competition that U.S. will likely face in the 2018 World Cup.