Will Clint Dempsey’s Loan to Fulham Help America’s World Cup Hopes?
The big news of the New Year for American soccer was that Clint Dempsey has returned to the English Premier League through a 2-month loan deal to Fulham, the club where he had the most personal success of his career. With the MLS now in its offseason, the move should surely help the player gain experience against top competition and help ready him for the 2014 World Cup, which begins in June. But will this move truly help the Dempsey or will it potentially cause a burnout ahead of the major tournament in Brazil?
Many players of Dempsey’s caliber have taken advantage of the MLS offseason to play abroad at top leagues. Landon Donovan famously excelled at Everton for several winters, while Thierry Henry had a nice return to Arsenal and David Beckham played at AC Milan. The major risk here is injury. Everyone knows that the EPL is the most physical and dangerous league in soccer, and with the ragged pitches of winter and the desperation of relegation-threatened clubs, many tackles can get a bit out of hand. Seemingly every year several players’ careers are threatened by brutal, leg-crunching tackles that can leave them sidelined for a year. This is the risk of Clint Dempsey playing for Fulham again. However, a professional soccer player cannot think about this when playing. Anyone who plays the game knows the risks.
The other issue is burnout. More games simply means a player will get exhausted. This is often given as an excuse for why the England National Team often fails to succeed at major tournaments. Their star players are right up there with the World’s best in talent alone, but after 9 grueling months of physical soccer, they are too weary to perform their best at World Cups. I think this worry is not too great for Dempsey though. His MLS season with Seattle Sounders ended in early November, meaning he has had a solid 2-month break. If anything, the player needs to play more games. This is exactly what is behind this loan.
At Fulham, Dempsey will be thrown into the thick of the action and have the chance to play against top players again. While the team has a good squad of players likely to be ahead of him in the pecking order, Dempsey will certainly get on the field, especially as teams often wear thin during this time of year. Remember, several years ago Clint Dempsey was the focal point of the Fulham’s attack, scoring 23 goals during the 2011-2012 season. He is a hero to the fans there and will surely be graciously welcomed back into the fold.
When the MLS season returns in March, he should be match-fit and ready to compete. While appearing quite lethargic and out of form during the tail end of last year, expect a reinvigorated Dempsey to lead the Sounders to success in 2014. But most importantly for Americans, expect this loan move to help him be well prepared for Brazil. As our nation’s top player, the country needs Clint Dempsey to be playing in top form when the World Cup comes around. With a good break and six months of competitive soccer ahead for him, expect the star to be in full form when the grand tournament begins!