Saturday, March 23, 2013

Captain America: Clint Dempsey

When Carlos Bocanegra was left out of the US Men's National Team for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico there was much speculation as to who would be selected to captain Jürgen Klinsmann's side. With no Tim Howard available and Landon Donovan still MIA, many speculated either Michael Bradley or Jermaine Jones would be selected to lead. It came as a shock however that Klinsmann selected Clint Dempsey to lead the United States.

Clint Dempsey is not your typical type of leader, not too vocal when it comes to his leadership approach, he chooses to lead by example rather than vocally. This is why lots of people questioned the choice to give Deuce the armband, as they thought Bradley or Jones would be more of a hands-on type of leader. I for one had said all along that giving the armband to Bradley or Jones would be a mistake, as the team needed something to give them a boost confidence and belief. The selection of Dempsey came right when anonymous sources were questioning Klinsmann's leadership. In an article by Brian Strauss on AOL Sporting News he mentions that a good number of players in the US camp were starting to question their managers leadership, tactics, and methods. You can read the article here.

Dempsey being named captain made so much sense to me. A player that many, including myself, has said needed to grow up a bit and be a leader, Dempsey was the clear choice for me. Bradley, at least to me, seems to disappear a bit on the field and that shouldn't happen when playing a holding midfield role like he does. Jermaine Jones I feel doesn't have enough experience, at least not as much as Dempsey, with the national team. What better way to force someone to grow up than hand them the biggest role on the team? This was reminiscent of when the New York Jets made Joe Namath captain back in the 60's and forced him to become a leader. I think this is what will happen with Dempsey. Clint is arguably the best American playing soccer right now, and more than likely will be for the next few years. His recent move to Tottenham Hotspur hasn't gone quite as planned, as he is not being used in a free role and is being confined to a more fixed role on the team. But there are sparks of the Fulham Dempsey at Spurs and hopefully he can turn that around.

Will Dempsey be the captain when Bocanegra, Howard, and eventually Donovan are fit and back in the squad? It's possible. If he can prove he is a good fit to wear the armband and isn't afraid to speak up and stand up for his teammates in a way that shows leadership instead of hotheadedness, he will be the captain even when those 3 are picked for the squad. This could be the emergence of a new Captain America. That title, to me, had always been Landon Donovan's and rightly so. But now I'm ready to concede that this is Clint Dempsey's team and Jürgen Klinsmann seems to agree. The future of the USMNT starts and ends with Clint Dempsey. Will he falter under the pressure of being thrown into captaincy or will he thrive with the new responsibility and raise his play?

Did Klinsmann make the right choice in Dempsey? Should he have chosen Bradley? Jones?

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