"Immigrants make the MLS stronger": Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey is a special case: he’s a native, a national hero in a league full of foreigners, but he also knows what it’s like to play outside the United States.
He is a treasure that shines by itself. Among Latinos, Africans, Europeans and even US-born Hispanics, Clint Dempsey not only stands out for his quality but also for being a national product, both in the MLS and in the United States. He played with the Furman University team in South Carolina during his student days and soon made the leap to the professional level when he signed with the New England Revolution in 2004.
I returned to the United States after six years in Europe because I wanted stability for my family and I didn’t want to be far from my parents.
Today, he defends the colors of the Seattle Sounders, the current MLS champion, and it’s not easy to get to him. He is the icon, the scorer and the leader, the man the team follows and believes in. Famous for not being charismatic at all, he maintains a relationship with the fans of the city and the country that oscillates between love and distance. Off the field, they can say what they want, but on the field, he has spent nearly a decade and a half proving that he isn’t just some common player. Having more than 130 caps with the national team, in which he’s scored 56 times, and having played six seasons in the English league, Dempsey’s accolades speak for themselves.
Clint was born in small Nacogdoches, Texas 34 years ago. He was a UEFA Cup runner-up with Fulham, a club that named him its best player for two seasons, and has scored for the United States in three consecutive World Cups (2006, 2010 and 2014).
When you talk to him, you can tell what the fans are saying. He’s not unfriendly, but he’s not the warmest either. His words are measured and accurate, and once he finishes speaking, he leaves training, greeting the distance as he approaches it. "I came back to the United States after six years in Europe because I wanted stability for my family and I didn’t want to be away from my parents. I always wanted to play in England and I fulfilled the dream, it was time to go home." Dempsey arrived in Seattle at the age of 30. He could have chosen another destination in Europe, but he was convinced that he could grow football in his home country by returning to the United States. It is a gesture that all fans still appreciate today.
Clint Dempsey: un ídolo en Seattle y un ícono de los Estados Unidos
Those who have quality and come here can only make the MLS better. That motivates kids, grows the hobby and betters the level of American players.
- 14-year professional career
- 3 World Cups
- 56 goals with the national team
- 4 seasons in the English Premier League
- Over 500 matches played
That's why Dempsey has the authority to speak with experience from both sides. He knows what it is to be an immigrant and also what it means to be the native in a tournament where foreigners make a difference. "I wanted to go to Spain or England, and after the 2006 World Cup the doors were opened. To have played with Fulham and Tottenham was to fulfill a dream but also served to develop myself as a player of the highest level.”
As for Hispanics in particular, and foreigners in general, operating in the MLS has a clear concept: "Those who have quality and come here can only make the MLS better. That motivates the kids, grows the hobby, and improves the level of United States players and therefore improves the skill of the national team. It's a situation that suits us all."
The Seattle Sounders are one of the few MLS teams that plays on an American football stage. Each game at CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, is seen by more than 40,000 people, which makes for a much more intense atmosphere. And you can always see that all eyes are on Clint. The fans are happy that Dempsey plays for them and that he gives everything. After each game, win or lose, the fans meet in restaurants and bars around the stadium and Dempsey is always in their conversations and songs. The fervor of the fans of the U.S. selection is the same and they see Clint and the young Christian Pulisic as the strongest candidates to play a starring role in all the tournaments that the U.S. plays.
Neither were named in the roster for the 2017 Gold Cup at the beginning, although everyone hopes Dempsey will be called after the group stage (tournament rules allow it) to resume his role as team leader. "Every international tournament is a new opportunity to win a trophy. At this Gold Cup, the teams will come with their strongest rosters and I hope we can start well, secure ourselves in the group stage and move forward. We have to be at our best if we want to win this time."
14-year professional career, 3 World Cups, 56 goals with the national team, 4 seasons in the English Premier League, Over 500 matches played
What keeps Dempsey motivated after all this time? Dempsey does not doubt the answer: "The more you do what you like to do, the longer you'll be able to live that dream you had as a child. Also, when you grow up and have children, you want them to see you play. My love of the game and my family, that's what keeps me motivated."
As for the future of his children, he says he will not push them to become footballers like him. "It would be wonderful if they were, but most of all, it’s important that they feel confident and happy in what they do, whatever it is. It can be in any other sport or profession, it doesn’t matter. "
But he didn’t have an easy life growing up. Clint Dempsey was raised in a motor home, and at the age of twelve, suffered through the death of his 16-year-old sister. He didn’t want to see Argentina play against Bulgaria in the 1994 World Cup because Diego Maradona was suspended and last year a cardiac arrhythmia was discovered in his heart that threatened his health and his career. Simply put, his life has been full of obstacles, but also of fulfilled dreams
The Story of Number 2
Despite being a forward, Clint Dempsey has always played with the #2, traditionally the number of a defender. This is because he wore #2 in college. Then, when he had to debut for the New England Revolution, only the numbers 2 and 10 were available, but there was a superstition within the club that the #10 was cursed, so he stuck to wearing the #2. His mother sent him a photo from his childhood of him wearing a shirt with the #2, which he didn’t remember, which reinforced the idea that it was his destiny to wear the number. So, except with Fulham where he had to use the #23, he has always, even with Tottenham and Seattle, been married to the #2.