LANDOVER, Md. – It didn’t matter that his team lost 4-1 or that he missed a golden opportunity to score.
Shortly after Wednesday’s friendly against Brazil ended, United States national team forward Clint Dempsey stood in FedEx Field, holding his cleats and wearing a smile.
“It’s good to be back on the field doing what I enjoy doing,” Dempsey said. “I’ve got my boots in my hand right now and I’ve got training [Thursday] to work on more fitness, a little more sharpness. I’m looking forward to getting more minutes and trying to make a difference.”
Dempsey is expected to get more time when the US meet Canada at Toronto’s BMO Field on Sunday (7 pm ET, NBCSN, Sportsnet, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) in the third game of what US manager Jurgen Klinsmann has dubbed a “five-game tournament.”
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The Fulham star sat out last Saturday’s game vs. Scotland with a groin strain before returning to training the next day and coming on as a second-half substitute against Brazil. The injury previously prevented him from playing in the season finale for Fulham, where he scored a career-best 23 goals this past season.
“I think I’ll be ready to get a few more minutes against Canada,” Dempsey said.
Klinsmann agreed, and even went one step further by saying that “hopefully he’ll be available for the start against Canada."
Wednesday’s game marked the first time Dempsey played alongside fellow national team icon Landon Donovan since Klinsmann assumed the reins last July. The 29-year-old Texan was greeted by loud ovations from the FedEx crowd when he came into the game for José Torres in the 56th minute.
Dempsey’s best scoring chance came in the 63rd minute, but he couldn’t beat Brazil’s Thiago Silva to a ball right in front of the mouth of the goal off a header from Herculez Gomez.
“Maybe if I just scored, it would have changed things up a little bit,” Dempsey said. “I thought I was going to get that one Herculez played to me.”
Once he’s 100 percent, the tallies will almost certainly come for Dempsey, who finished fourth in the English Premier League in goals this past season. And with a pair of World Cup qualifying games against Antigua and Barbuda (June 8) and Guatemala (June 12) looming, that’s what the US are focused on right now.
“Certainly a fully fit Clint Dempsey makes a difference on our team,” Klinsmann said. “But we had to deal with his groin injury. We had to build him. Hopefully now we see an improvement and every day we see more sharpness."
E-mail Dave Zeitlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.