Thoughts on Clint Dempsey’s Return to MLS
Now that the smoke has settled on the massive move home for American forward Clint Dempsey, and since the player has made his first appearance for Seattle Sounders, I think it is time to analyze the move and try to understand not only how it occurred, but also how the transfer bodes for the future of both the player and American soccer.
Clearly, Clint Dempsey’s move last year from Fulham to Tottenham was a bit of a failure. After enjoying his most fruitful season at Fulham with 23 goals, Dempsey expressed a desire to play on Europe’s grandest stage, the UEFA Champions League. Unfortunately, none of the teams in the Champions League decided to buy him, and in his eagerness to secure a new challenge, Dempsey set sail for Tottenham, a team that usually finishes just outside the top 4 and the Champions League-earning spots in England.
After the team finished 5th this year, Tottenham would again be without a Champions League appearance, making Dempsey’s move to Tottenham practically worthless. Now 30 years old, I think Clint Dempsey realized that his dream of playing Champions League soccer has failed. No Champions League team is currently interested in him since his form dipped last season.
Additionally, Dempsey didn’t get too many chances at Tottenham, where he was more of a fringe starter and often used as a substitute. Contrast this to Fulham, where he was the team’s main supplier of goals. He only scored 12 goals this year, and never got into a real groove.
With many suspecting that superstar Gareth Bale is set to leave Tottenham, I figured that Dempsey might get a more prominent role in the upcoming season, though I suppose that manager Andre Villas-Boas told him not to expect any more playing time. Tottenham’s spending spree this summer has included midfielders Paulinho and Nacer Chadli, and I feel Dempsey would have again been limited in his role. Thus, I think Dempsey’s move to Seattle was done for him to become the focus player in his team once again.
He will be exactly that in the MLS, and will set up a great rivalry with Landon Donovan, who has had a great career with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Both players are in their prime and figure to have several productive years in front of them, which will push the MLS excitement up to new levels, especially in the MLS Playoffs.
For American soccer, this is a clear sign that the league can attract a top player, even if it required a record-breaking contract. Hopefully, it will go a distance in promoting the sport in America.
Another benefit could be with the 2014 World Cup coming this summer. Dempsey will now only play through the fall, and will then have an extended break until the MLS begins again in March. This rest should help him be fresh for the World Cup instead of exhausted after a 9 month English Premier League season. For a player at the age of 30, such rest could be massive looking ahead to Brazil.
And so I think that this move will actually benefit everyone involved, including Dempsey and the MLS. Although it is a bit sad to see a dream of Champions League soccer unfulfilled for Clint Dempsey, I think that at this point of his career, an opportunity to be an American star and compete for titles in the MLS will actually be a more enjoyable experience than scrounging around on the substitute bench for a hopeless team that can’t even finish 4th in their league. Best of luck to Clint Dempsey with his new team!