SAN FRANCISCO – Breath easy, US national team fans. Clint Dempsey himself says his last-minute scratch from Tuesday night’s friendly vs. Azerbaijan was precautionary, and it won’t preclude him from any further action.
The USMNT captain was pulled from the starting lineup 10 minutes before kickoff with groin tightness, replaced by Chris Wondolowski. Jurgen Klinsmann played down any worries of Dempsey missing any more minutes with the World Cup less than three weeks away.
“No it’s not serious at all,” Klinsmann said in the postgame press conference following the 2-0 win. “He had a little bit of pain yesterday already in training and he told me about it. And then in warm-up, he was just a little bit nervous about it.”
Klinsmann said he discussed the injury shortly before kickoff with USMNT head athletic trainer Ivan Pierra, who recommended they sit the Seattle Sounders star and give him “one or two days of rest” following nearly two weeks of pre-World Cup training camp at Stanford University.
“The players pretty much went on the edge and that’s what we have to do,” Klinsmann added. “We have to prepare them for something bigger.”
The USMNT now turns to its next send-off friendly on Sunday vs. Turkey at Red Bull Arena. Dempsey has no intention of missing that game.
“Yeah, I’ll be ready,” the 31-year-old attacker told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday night. “[It’s] just tightness. I was just feeling it a little bit [on Monday] and it was still tight again today, so it didn’t make sense to push it in the game.”
That said, Dempsey was still minutes away from leading the US onto the field at Candlestick Park before Klinsmann made the ultimate decision.
“If you want to play, you want to play,” he added. “But at the end of the day, you’ve got be smart at the same time.”
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.