Clint Dempsey wags a finger with the US men's national team
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Armchair Analyst: New role is an old spot for Clint Dempsey - for club and country?

There is a weird thing that's happened over the past couple of months. Online -- on Twitter, Reddit, BigSoccer, various comments on various articles -- there's been a proliferation of speculation regarding the composition of the US national team attack.

"Jozy looks good, and Bobby Wood is scoring in Germany, and Jordan Morris is finally a pro. Is this the most stacked we've been up top since Charlie Davies got hurt?"

First of all, this line of discussion ignores the fact that Davies has played well enough, over the past 18 months, to have at least earned a look at one US camp or another. I'm disappointed that hasn't happened.

Second, it ignores Clint Dempsey entirely. People are talking about the World Cup qualifiers this March against Guatemala, and the Copa Centenario that follows in June, as if Dempsey isn't and shouldn't even be a factor. I think these people are deluded, and hung up on age (Deuce turns 33 in a minute) rather than production.

Let's recap his 2015: He led the US with nine goals in nine games, tying the single-year mark set by Landon Donovan in 2007 (it took Landon 12 games). He was the only American at this past Gold Cup to score more than one goal. He scored the game-winner in all three US wins at that tournament. He scored the equalizer in the third-place game against Panama before the US lost that one on PKs -- he made his, by the way.

And in league play, for the Sounders, Dempsey did this:

That 8-game streak came last spring, before he left for national team camp.

Now, obviously Dempsey wasn't the same player after the Gold Cup, just as he wasn't quite the same after the 2014 World Cup (only American to score multiple goals there, as well), and just as Jermaine Jones wasn't the same after last year's January camp, and so on and so forth. If there's one thing we've seen over the last few years it's that veterans rarely come out of Jurgen Klinsmann's longer national team camps at peak fitness; rather, they tend to pick up injuries that hamstring them (hehe) in the following months.

But should that really rule Dempsey out henceforth? When a healthy and fit Deuce is still pretty obviously the best attacker in the US pool? When a rested Dempsey is capable of performances like the one he had against Club America this past week?

It wasn't just the goals, by the way. Dempsey played inverted on the left of Seattle's new-look 4-3-3, nominally as a winger but actually slightly withdrawn to facilitate in possession as well as helping to dampen las Aguilas's attempts to build from the back. If that role sounds familiar it's because that's largely how Deuce was deployed by Bob Bradley from 2007-through-2011 on the left side of a 4-2-2-2, and because it's a reprise of the role he had during his heyday at Fulham.

And if that sounds valuable it's because the US have had a ton of trouble transitioning from defense to attack over the past several years.

Sounders fans are probably telling me to hush up right now. I've talked to a bunch of them who truly hope that Klinsmann is, in fact, done with Dempsey, because they want him healthy and fit and available for the entire year, and because they harbor no illusions about what would happen in the second half of the season should Dempsey get the call for the Copa Centenario. The "Club Before Country" movement is alive and well in Cascadia, and the Sounders desperately need their best player to be healthy all year.

But honestly? So does the US. The year ahead is full of opportunities that are too big to waste. 

Author's Note

This is the 11th in a daily series counting down to to the MLS regular season first kick on March 6. I'm using Paul Carr's tweets (with his blessing) to examine some of the bigger storylines to follow in the upcoming season.

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