STANFORD, Calif. – Lead us, Deuce, and we will follow.
Clint Dempsey arrived in US national team camp on Thursday, a day later than the majority of the 30-man roster. But it didn’t matter when he got here – he’s so scorching-hot right now, the entire team is feeding off his sky-high confidence.
That’s according to Dempsey’s Seattle Sounders teammate Brad Evans, who says it’s impossible not to be inspired by the form of the dialed-in USMNT captain.
“It’s the perfect timing,” the midfielder/defender told reporters on Sunday, referring to Dempsey’s eight goals and three assists through nine MLS games for the league-leading Sounders. “[USMNT teammates] have asked – they’ll text [me]. They’ll see the goals and they’ll see the way he’s playing. It’s just a different level right now. Even in training, it’s a cut above the rest.”
It couldn’t have come any sooner, either. Dempsey’s return to MLS last summer didn’t match up the incredible hype, as he struggled with fitness and scored only once in nine games and couldn’t rescue the floundering Sounders from a harsh playoff exit to their archrival Portland Timbers.
Dempsey then failed to find the back of the net in an offseason loan back to Fulham, where he appeared in eight games across all competitions and was far from the force he was during his five-year stay at the West London club.
That had many worried about the state of the national team captain heading into a World Cup year. But Dempsey has silenced those doubters in short order with his blistering start to 2014. After an offseason retooling in the Emerald City, he has carried Seattle on his back: He and strike mate Obafemi Martins have combined for 13 goals and nine assists, the best numbers for a forward pairing in MLS.
“I’m in a good run of form,” the 31-year-old told reporters before Sunday’s training. “[I’m] feeling confident, in a good rhythm. I’m enjoying my game, but it’s about coming here and putting in the extra work, everybody getting on the same page and trying to figure out what that best 11 is going to be and making sure that when the World Cup starts, we hit the ground running and get the right result.”
The only player who might command as much attention in the USMNT spotlight, Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley, has made his name as one of the most driven and competitive players on the roster, and they're qualities he feels fit right in with Dempsey's.
“He’s a competitor. He gives everything he has every time he steps on the field,” Bradley told reporters at camp on Friday. “There’s a group of us that tries to help him, help each other in making sure there’s a strong presence, a strong mentality on the team.”
According to Evans, Dempsey oozes leadership in USMNT camp. Not the rah-rah, inspirational speech-making kind, but the type where his level of intensity is so jacked up, it sets the tone the entire team wants to follow.
There’s no question in Evans’ mind that Dempsey's form in Seattle will translate over immediately heading to Brazil.
“He’s going to have the team on his shoulders,” Evans said. “And I think he’s old enough, he’s mature enough, he’s experienced enough to have that confidence and I know that he will. Any time I turn my head, I’m looking for advice from him. It’s a huge factor to add to this team, that’s for sure.”
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.