It’s been 225 days since Clint Dempsey last suited up for the U.S. Men’s National Team, and his absence has never been more apparent.
Aside from wins against Trinidad & Tobago and St. Vincent & the Grenadines last August – two teams currently ranked outside the top 100 in the FIFA World Rankings – the United States’ Dempsey-less attack has looked far from threatening.
Discounting the two aforementioned wins last summer, the U.S. have achieved a lackluster 2-2-2, scoring only five goals during that span; two against 154th ranked Cuba, one against 109th ranked New Zealand in a 1-1 draw, one against Mexico in a 2-1 loss, and one against 77th ranked Jamaica last Friday.
Also during this span, has seen the U.S. get shutout twice, most notably in a 4-0 drubbing at the hand of Costa Rica. Ironically, just a few months prior, in the Copa América Centenario, the United States were able to defeat the Costa Ricans by the same score; mostly in part to Clint Dempsey’s goal and two assists.
But without the United States’ second leading goal-scorer in history, the offense simply isn’t there.
During the Copa América last June, where the United States finished an impressive fourth place – beating out the likes of Brazil, Mexico, and Uruguay – Clint Dempsey was leading the way with his play up front.
Of the U.S.’ seven goals scored in the tournament, the 33-year-old Dempsey played a hand in six of them; three goals and three assists. In all likelihood, had Dempsey not taken part in the Copa América Centenario, the U.S.’ would have found themselves eliminated from the tournament after the group stage.
In Dempsey’s stead, strikers Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Jozy Altidore have all tried to fill the role set forth by the playmaking striker.
All to no avail.
And with Clint Dempsey arriving at the tail-end of his storied U.S. National Team career after recovering from a heart condition suffered last year, we may never see the same playmaking Dempsey again.
The World Cup – which the U.S. have qualified for every cycle since 1986 – is just over a year away, and the Stars and Stripes couldn’t look more unqualified. The United States currently find themselves 4 points out of qualification in the CONCACAF fifth round, sitting behind the likes of Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago.
Granted, the U.S.’ have only played two games thus far in this qualifying stage – both against the two top teams in the group: Costa Rica and Mexico – so there’s still plenty of time to make their way back up the table.
The United States’ next three games in World Cup qualifying come against Honduras (75th), Panama (58th), and Trinidad & Tobago(83rd); all fixtures the U.S. should be favored in. However, if the U.S. can’t find the goal scoring replacement for Clint Dempsey, the Stars and Stripes may completely miss out on the 2018 World Cup; as crazy as that sounds.
Someone – whether it’s Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood, maybe even Christian Pulisic – has to step up for the United States in the coming months. This generation of U.S. soccer players are only a few games way from completely missing the most important tournament in the game.