The Wizardry of Clint Dempsey

The following is a post from Aubrey Lethbridge- world traveler, cultured gentleman, soccer fanatic and friend. Aubrey went to school at University of Glasgow (yes, that Glasgow) and has been  traveling to Africa (yes, that Africa) since  2011 filming a documentary about the Liberian amputee soccer team. Check out his blog, which is incredibly fascinating, and enjoy the following hilarious and brilliant piece about American soccer’s biggest star and the man who formerly owned that title.
Quick personal side note: I got a job doing actual writing for something called a newspaper, hence the lack of posts on here as I furiously learn how to write articles that don’t contain vulgarity or xenophobia. The good news is that the Euro2012 tournament starts in a month, and US Basketball begins its campaign of ownage shortly thereafter, so tune in soon for plenty of posts prominently featuring the aforementioned vulgarity and xenophobia. -Pino

           Given that Clint Dempsey is now being included in the English Premier League’s Best Eleven, I don’t think that there is anything groundbreaking or remarkable about extolling the virtues of a true American hero.  In fact, on a “Bush is a retard” jokes scale from 2001 to 2010, I would put myself at about 2004 or 2005.  It’s no longer original and about to start getting really old.  However, this being the internet, you have two choices: read this blog post, or go fuck yourself.  Literally.
Now, on to Deuce.
Clint Dempsey is having a remarkable year and this is indisputable with a quick glance at the stats.  First American to score a Hat-Trick in a Prem League game, Most single season goals for Fulham, tied for 4th in the Golden Boot competition.  However, this being the “beautiful game” stats alone don’t do Deuce justice.  He has to be seen to be believed.  But given one glimpse, it is impossible to deny that Clint Dempsey is playing with the knowledge and confidence that has never been seen coming from an American.  He can read and create space, pick out defensive weaknesses and capitalize in order to hammer goals home.  He has proven he can score from any chance, be it bending free kicks, high-flying headers, or poaching rebounds and demonstrating his deadly instincts of aggression and timing.  Clint is also an incredibly versatile player, playing just about every position from center to right, midfield to forward, at some point this season.  His play on the ball at midfield shows how much his play has developed as well, picking out passes to set up his team mates for glory.  And finally, he has become fearless, fighting and playing hard no matter how great the opponents are.  This may be the most important trait for the US team as we tend to get spooked when the big game comes to town.  So given all that, I would say Clint Dempsey is undoubtedly the best American outfielder ever to play the game If you disagree with this statement, I will come to your place of work and Cantona-kick you in front of your colleagues.

“What? Freddy Adu? Eat this!”

And that brings me to my main point.  Clint Dempsey is not just really good, he is really good for American Soccer.  Ever since Jurgen Klinsmann became the US head coach, he has been issuing a challenge to individual American players: Get over to Europe, play in the big leagues there, take on bigger an bigger challenges until you are playing at the top of European Soccer.  Bring the fight to those who are touted as the biggest and best.  Prove that you are worthy not just of playing for the US, but also of playing against the best in the world.  And this is visible across the US team, from Joze Altidore at Villareal, to Glasgow Rangers which has become the second home for many Yanks, to Michael Bradley’s career across Europe.  But Clint Dempsey is their torch bearer and the greatest example of Klinsmann’s idea.

It seems unusual for a national coach to offer this kind of guidance and micromanagement to his individual players.  Traditionally, the job of a national head coach is to pick players from the national pool of talent, manage egos of professionals at the top of their game, bring guys from lots of different places and styles together under one banner and generally try and keep his starting XI pulling in the same unified direction.  Oh, and for 2 weeks every few years he runs a sleep-away camp.  Developing individual talent and challenging the players outside their international duties is not the typical purview of the head coach.

France’s Sleep-away camp continues to be the best as it features psychics, headbutting, and underage prostitutes.

However, Klinsmann is not any other coach in any other country.  He is a man with a mission to rebuild soccer and soccer culture in an historically hostile soccer environment, the good ol’ U S of A.  You see, coming from Europe, where soccer is the lifeblood of most nations (literally, as most hooligans feed on the blood of their opponents), Klinsmann knows that the US will never be as soccer mad as the rest of the world.  We will never need football the way Germany and England do, as we are still relevant to the world.  And because we will never need it as much, we will never have soccer built into our culture the way other countries do.  And so we will never be as good as those countries.  SPOILER ALERT: America will probably never win the World Cup.  Ever.  But that’s ok, in all likelihood, neither will England, even though they have the talent.  But don’t get disheartened, because the World Cup isn’t all about winning.  It is about getting together at a bar, getting shithoused with people from other countries, and waiting for the opportunity to ridicule them for the stupid things they do.

And one thing is definitely for certain.  The US will never have the structure to support any world-class players.  Not in that measly backwater called the MLS.  That’s because the MLS is essentially Comic-Con.  To start off with, you’ve got the once-great stars.  These are guys who, though over the hill, want to be in a place where they can still feel like the kings they once were.  Where they can be praised by the fans and overpaid for the value of what they once represented rather than what theyare now.  Shatner, Beckham, same shit, smells different.  Then you have the fans.  A bunch of mouth-breathing nerds who desperately want to belong to something and are willing to settle for something make-believe.  I don’t mean to denigrate their love for the game.  Most of them have a true passion for it.  But so do guys who dress up like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.  And no matter how much imagination they have, that painted garbage can will never be R2D2.  If you are an MLS fan I have news for you.  Even if you put on a Red Bulls shirt and go stand in the supporters section and chant for 90 minutes, you’re not really a soccer fan, you’re just really good at make believe.  Because some part of it will always be a put-on.  And maybe you were just born at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Perhaps you should have been English or German.  But as it happens, you’re American.  Tough shit, get over it.  And disabuse yourself of the notion that the MLS will ever be a real league, or able to support real talent.

            No, there is no hope for America in America and Klinsmann knows this.  And even though the US may never be a great soccer nation, it certainly will never be a great soccer nation if it lacks the ambition to go beyond it’s boundaries and find new challenges to make us great.  This is the only chance we’ve got.

Landon Donovan is another pillar of US Soccer and has had, by most counts, a pretty respectable career.  He is often called the greatest American soccer player based on the fact that he has the most goals in international play.  He has also performed well for the club that he shows fierce loyalty for, the L.A. Galaxy.  The thing is, he has always been better than LA.  He has always been of the caliber to play and even succeed on bigger stages.  But he didn’t, and even that was something I was willing to accept.  I mean, first there was the fact that he was gun-shy from some unsuccessful loan spells in Germany.  And then, in the last 3 years, when he showed terrific form at Everton, he went back because of contract obligations.  Ok, those can be gotten out of, but again, you gotta admire the loyalty.  Plus, his argument seemed to be that he was bringing a bit of the continental style and knowledge back to the MLS.  A little thin, but ok, Landon, you get a pass.  That is until February 2012, when Landon was finishing his latest loan at Everton and preparing to get back to Los Angeles.  His last game at Everton was supposed to be an FA cup game against Blackpool, but he was sick with the flu and missed it.  Man, that would suck, wouldn’t it?  To get prevented from doing what you love and what your really good at, cause of a shitty flu?  And to miss your last game playing on an elite stage like that?  I mean, I really felt for Donovan then.  And he expressed his heartbreak by saying:

            “Of course I’ll miss it. How would you not want to be part of this?” he says. “But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about laying on a beach on Monday.”

Siiiiiiick, Dude!

Wait, what?  You played like 10 games in 2 months and now you need a vacation?  What the fuck?  But don’t worry, The Guardian reporter, assures us,

It would be remiss to equate Donovan’s love of home in the Californian sunshine with a lack of professional ambition.

            Why would anyone see it that way?  Is it because he seems relieved to be leaving Northwest England, the fucking Fertile Crescent of Football in favor of somewhere a little warmer and sunnier?  How could that not be construed as a lack of ambition?  I think that sort of throws Donovan’s whole career into perspective.  In fact, why has he been so loyal to the LA Galaxy?  What is it about that club that deserves loyalty anyway?  They haven’t given you any opportunities at Soccer immortality.  They don’t pay you much more than the average salary in the EPL.  They have only been around for 17 years, so it’s not a sense of history.  So what is stopping you?  That is, other than a lack of ambition.  Perhaps Donovan prefers the land of make believe.  I don’t want to think that’s true.  I don’t want to believe that Landon Donovan, with his lack of ambition, is somehow content to hold American soccer back.  But I have trouble seeing it as anything else.  Please, Landon, help me, explain it in a way that makes sense.  You’re not bad for soccer, are you?

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