COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The quest for 57 international goals continues for Clint Dempsey.
But achieving that mark, which would tie him with Landon Donovan for the lead atop the US men's national team all-time scoring list has taken a backseat to a more immediate task at hand.
“The most important thing is trying to qualify for the World Cup, so that’s what we’re trying to do,” he reiterated to reporters ahead of Thursday’s World Cup qualifying match against Trinidad and Tobago (8 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN). “That’s the most important thing.”
Nevertheless, his teammates know he’s close, and have become reflective as to what achieving the mark means for both Dempsey and the national team.
“It’s not an easy thing to do,” explained US teammate Jozy Altidore. “To score for a number of years at this level. He’s a guy that pops up in good spots. He’s not a No. 9, but he’s got that mentality of a nine. You can’t always score the golazo. He’s able to score those grimy goals and that’s why he’s so important.”
Dempsey was quick to deflect that credit back to his teammates, however.
“There’s a lot of quality on the team,” he said. “They put you in good positions to get chances and I think that’s why you get better looks in front of goal and I think that’s why you get more goals.”
The Seattle Sounders forward also gave a lot of credit to the support he’s received from his family, when reflecting upon his career and the milestone last week, but he’s equally grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded to him through USMNT manager Bruce Arena.
“He called me into my first national team camp, he called me into the World Cup, started me in a game in a World Cup, gave me the opportunity to accomplish my dream to score in a World Cup,” Dempsey said. “He opened up the door for me to play in Europe and helped me accomplish that dream as well. He’s been consistent and he’s been successful wherever he’s been. He’s a winner.”
After being sidelined after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat last year, Dempsey surprised many with a return to international duty this past March. He picked up where he left off, scoring four goals in World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama.
“You never really know what’s going to happen,” Dempsey said. “To get four goals in two games was a little bit of a surprise, I would say.”
Perhaps it’s only fitting that the record could be broken during World Cup qualification, where the Texas native has scored a haul of goals in his storied career.
“Anytime you score a goal in a World Cup qualifier, it’s always special,” he said. “It always feels good to keep playing and to keep going. Because there’s things you want to accomplish.”