Clint Dempsey - US national team - celebrating goal vs. Panama - March 28, 2017

SANDY, Utah –Clint Dempsey sits one goal away from tying Landon Donovan for the US national team mark for goals scored, but that particular bit of history isn't of much concern to US head coach Bruce Arena. 


Arena is keeping his focus firmly on the USMNT's upcoming matches: a friendly against Venezuela on Saturday night (10 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UDN) and World Cup qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago on June 8 and at Mexico three days later. Whether or not Dempsey breaks the record in the three-game stretch is anyone's guess, but Arena won't necessarily be trying to get it out of the way on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. 


“I have given it no thought,” he said. “I’m probably being disrespectful to the player, but Clint will find the time to get his next goal or two.”


Even if he's not paying attention to the scoring record, Arena, who coached Dempsey at the 2006 World Cup, has seen what the 34-year-old can do first hand. He thinks the Seattle Sounders star still has plenty left in the tank. 


“I think he has a bunch of good years ahead of him with the national team as we continue to surround him with good players. He’s still a player that we believe can give us quality minutes and be an important player,” Arena said.


Dempsey has scored in the last three World Cups, and has four career goals in the tournament. He's working for the chance to become the first US player to score in four World Cups next summer, although the team is still working to qualify for Russia. They could take a big step towards that goal next week, starting with Thursday's match against Trinidad & Tobago in Denver and continuing next Sunday at the Azteca. 


Those sorts of big-game environments often bring out Dempsey's best, something USMNT captain Michael Bradley is well aware of.


“I have been lucky enough to be on the field with him on so many big days,” Bradley said. “His ability to leave everything he has on the field, to make plays that make a difference, to come through in big moments has been incredible. When you’re getting ready for big games and see Clint, he’s a guy you want with you on the biggest stage.”


Looking back, Arena admitted he wasn't sure Dempsey, who had successful goal-scoring stints at Fulham and Tottenham in England, would be cut out for Europe after leaving the New England Revolution following the 2006 season.


“He’s a goal scorer and when you score goals you’re certainly different than most other players on the field. He has a track record everywhere he’s been he scores goals. His career has been impressive,” Arena said. “When he left MLS, I certainly had my doubts he could be a player that could earn significant minutes and move to big clubs in Europe, but he proved everyone wrong.”


Now, Arena sees a player at peace, a veteran who gained a new sense of perspective after missing the second half of last season due to a heart condition. 


“Last year allowed him to reflect a little bit on himself as a player and person and I think it has brought a different perspective to him on and off the field,” Arena said. “Today, I see a quality player who is in a good place. It’s been a great run for him.”