On Thursday, Clint Dempsey burnished his credentials as a big-game player for the US national team, with a goal and assist in the 2-1 Copa America Centenario quarterfinal win over Ecuador, in front of the CenturyLink Field crowd where he plays his home games for the Seattle Sounders.
Reaching the semifinals of the Copa America, for just the second time in USMNT history, is no small feat, but after the game, Dempsey was ready to "keep wishing" at the tournament, hosted on American soil for the first time.
"We’re going to give it everything we can," he said postgame. "We’re trying to get to the final. We’re going to try to win it. You don’t get a lot of opportunities in a major competition to go all the way. That’s what we’re going to try to do."
It took a great deal of work to get the win for the US, as Ecuador came back from a two-goal deficit to pressure the hosts to the brink in the final minutes of the game. But Dempsey praised his side's ability to dig deep in the biggest moments of the tournament.
“Yeah, these last two games they showed it, just staying compact, being difficult to break down and just showed a lot of heart really. But at the same time being able to get goals to give us that cushion."
While the US routinely hosts the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the regional championship, the last special men's tournament that came stateside, the 1994 World Cup, featured a performance that went above what the USMNT had accomplished in prior decades. Perhaps some of that magic is in store again this year for the Copa America Centenario?
Regardless, the ability to play, and win, in front of his home crowd was not lost on Dempsey.
"It’s always great to do it when you’re at home," he said. "It’s always great to do it for the States. It’s what you dream about as a kid. So I’m blessed.”
"Hopefully we can keep going. We’re still alive in this tournament. And we’re in the semifinals of a major competition. So we’re happy."