COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Facing a depleted group of potential candidates to lead the US national team into a crucial World Cup qualifier on Friday night against Costa Rica, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will still be able to lean on one of his most experienced players to wear the captain’s armband.
Clint Dempsey was named captain on Wednesday for the team’s upcoming match, giving the Tottenham Hotspur star the honor the first time under Klinsmann after fellow veteran Carlos Bocanegra was left off the roster due to a lack of playing time with Spanish side Racing Santander and goalkeeper Tim Howard went down a back injury.
Dempsey is the fifth different player under Klinsmann to be named captain, following Bocanegra (17), Howard (3), Jermaine Jones (2) and Kyle Beckerman (1). He's worn the armband just once in his previous 92 caps, donning it in the second half of a scoreless draw vs. Colombia in 2010.
“It’s an honor,” Dempsey said. “You gotta go out and represent your country, you have more pressure on your shoulders and you gotta step up to the task. I’ll do my best to try and help this team get the best result.”
Dempsey said Wednesday that his fitness has improved after being out of action for the past two weeks with a calf injury, but that it’s unclear what he’ll be able to give to the US team on Friday night. He came off the bench and played the final 45 minutes of Tottenham’s 1-0 loss to Fulham on Sunday.
“It felt good to get 45 minutes under my belt,” he said. “I’m feeling good and working in training now, and I’m ready to go on Friday.”
Dempsey said he’s “at least 45 minutes fit” for the match against Costa Rica, but didn’t assure he could play a full 90 minutes.
“It’s one of those things where you gotta play to find out,” he said. “I’m more fit now [than the Fulham game] because I have some more training sessions under my belt, and I’m feeling good.”
Both Jones and midfielder Michael Bradley were rumored to be among the candidates for the captaincy on Friday night, but the veteran Bradley praised Klinsmann’s selection of Dempsey to lead the club.
“When you look at Clint you see a guy who isn’t afraid of anything,” Bradley said. “He doesn’t shy away from a challenge. So when you talk about wanting as many men, as many guys with real character on your team, Clint is certainly first on that list.”
“Clint is one of our most experienced players and ready to assume a more vocal leadership role,” head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in a statement. “He has been huge for us in World Cup qualifying so far and is already one of our key leaders. We know he will do a great job for these two important games.”
Dempsey's six goals in 2014 qualifying lead all US players, and his 11 goals in 27 qualifying appearances is second all-time.