Friday, July 20, 2012


Doubtful there is a sports fan in the world who has not been vexed by an athlete on their team publicly fawning over where else he would like to get paid millions of dollars. In fact, sympathy seems impossible for the likes of a Dwight Howard or a Luka Modric, because the saga of the season should be...the season, itself. Instead, it devolves into a single, tactless player covering an imaginary Morrisey cover of the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go," crooned irregardless into the bathroom mirror the modern media provides.
I am of course not referring to you, Clint, you're a little too hip-hop to be a sad, media sop--although you didn't necessarily take the high road as you piqued the interest of the league's top clubs during your dream season:"Its no secret that I would like to play Champions League one day in my career...If teams are interested, they need to put their money where their mouth is an make an offer."Fulham fans did not seem to hold too much of a grudge, however, voting you the team's Player of the Season for the second year running. And I'll wager a guess that it's because they've watched you inch forward with workmanlike performance after workmanlike performance, enduring three American-doubting coaches before each time earning your place in the starting eleven, and then producing. Finally, when your fourth coach in five years, Martin Jol, gave you your due from the get-go, you exploded for the best season of 'soccer' an American has ever had. I probably don't need to show you your own numbers, but:CLINT DEMPSEY FOR FULHAM06/07 - Goals: 1,  Assists: 007/08 - Goals: 6,  Assists: 208/09 - Goals: 8,  Assists: 309/10 - Goals: 7.  Assists: 310/11 - Goals: 13 Assists: 411/12 - Goals: 23 Assists: 6During your career at Fulham you've shattered their scoring record; scored perhaps Fulham's most memorable goal (and in the Europa League); lead the team in scoring for the last four seasons, despite playing most of your football in midfield; scored numerous times against lopsided, geographical rival Chelsea; and even your very first goal for Fulham Football Club may well be the club's most important, as it has ushered in the longest sustained Premiership run they've had since the middle of the 20th century.In short, you have shown neither fear of the moment nor of the opposition while based at Craven Cottage in the world's best football league, and for that, the Cottagers sing this song about you each time you score:He plays for Fulham FCHe is the best at thatHe scores with his left foot he scores with his rightAnd when he plays against Chelsea he scores all f***ing night(There's an alternate version about 'making Drogba look shite' as well.)Now, as the rumors swirl and Fulham makes public shows of loyalty towards you, please keep this in mind...The USA has never had a football hero.Let me qualify:In many countries around the world the second most recognizable person in said country behind the president/prime minister/dictator is the footballer who plays on one of the two to six big teams in the four biggest leagues in Europe: England, Spain, Italy and Germany in roughly that order. They are national icons to a ridiculous degree. Their faces are plastered across every imaginable media, their names are graffiti-written on the walls, and fall off peoples lips like some sort of proud yet mundane prayer. In the three countries outside of the US that I have lived, this has been a distinct phenomenon:
  • In Cameroon, it was Samuel Eto'o Fils of Barcelona, way larger than life--and always returning home to 'make it rain'  in nightclubs as if that was legitimate charity work or something.
  • In South Korea, Ji-Sung Park of Manchester United, despite not being conventionally good-looking (in a country so obsessed with self-image that it is socially acceptable for grown men to take pictures of themselves on the subway and 15% get some form of plastic surgery) his mug was seen peering down from bulletin boards and out of flat screens advertising anything from soccer cleats to sports drinks to bean tea.
  • And here in Ecuador, Antonio "Tono" Valencia is 'untouchable'; criticism of his play is pretty much blasphemy. 
  • SERBIA: Nemanja Vidic - Manchester United & Branislav Ivanovic - Chelsea
  • GHANA: Kevin-Prince Boateng - A.C. Milan
  • ISRAEL: Yossi Benayoun - Chelsea
  • CZECH REPUBLIC - Thomas Rosicky - Arsenal & Michal Kadlec - Bayern Leverkusen
  • CAMEROON - Alexander Song - Arsenal & Benoit Assou-Ekotto - Tottenham
  • IVORY COAST - Yaya Toure - Manchester City
  • TOGO - Emmanuel Adebayor - Tottenham
  • BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA - Edin Dzeko - Manchester City & Miralem Pjanic - Roma
  • SLOVAKIA - Martin Skrtel - Liverpool & Marek Hamsik - Napoli
  • CHILE - Alexis Sanchez - Barcelona & Arturo Vidal - Juventus
  • SWITZERLAND - Stephan Lichsteiner - Juventus & Blerim Dzemaili - Napoli
  • MONTENEGRO - Mirko Vucinic - Juventus
  • COLOMBIA - Juan Zuniga - Napoli & Radamel Falcao - Atletico Madrid
  • MACEDONIA - Goran Pandev - Napoli
  • TURKEY - Omer Toprak - Bayern LeverkusenPERU - Jefferson Farfan - Shalke
In our country of over-dogs, the USA, we must admit to being a minor, if emerging, 'soccer' nation. We have yet to have a field player who has clearly succeeded on a major European team. Our closest, from least to most:
Looks the part, but perhaps not.
If only Man City was then what it is now...
Trying to leave the bad-ol'-days of Villa and his father's shadow forever behind this season at Roma.

The best 'spitting image' of an American 'soccer' hero we've had so far...

Clint Dempsey he wears a magic hat

And looking further to name a few who currently play consistently for a major club in a top-four league, and who are not from anywhere resembling a traditional football powerhouse:

His time at A.C. Milan simply does not count because A) he played in only one competitive game for them in two seasons, B) his second season with the club he requested (admirably) to receive no salary or would not have been retained, and C) his most notable moment in Black and Red was on the practice pitch when he briefly strangled Zlatan Ibrahimovich.
Reyna was loaned out after five matches at Leverkusen, and when he played regularly for Manchester City it was when there was only a 'big four' in the Premier League, instead of a 'big six'; Manchester City was not then owned by a sheik with bottomless pockets and therefore was not one of the four.
Just signed to Roma after an impressive season with Chievo, but it remains to be seen how he'll fare now that he's there...
Playing regularly on either side of a Blackburn loan for Shalke is no small accomplishment for an American. Shalke has been one of the top four Bundesliga teams over the last five years while he's been there, and have been regulars in the Champions League during that time. The fact that playing for the USMNT was Jones' back-up plan to playing for Germany does not designate him to be America's first soccer hero. In addition, he has also accrued a certain level of infamy for the egregious 'Augsberg dive' and a training ground brawl with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. 
OK, Deuce, get what I'm driving at? More than a German coach with a vision, another strong showing at the next World Cup, more purpose-built MLS stadiums or more ex-European-legend signings, what US 'soccer' needs most is simply their first legitimate football star.
Just as whole nations get sucked into the NBA to watch their nation's one player compete with the world's best, the US needs an insider mixing it up at the highest level before they can really access the sport. This is how it is the world over, including the US of A.
So despite wanting to see a guy stick it out with his team and battle with them until their legs start to get heavy with time and miles, I think you are too important for the future of US football to stay put at Fulham, as great a run as it's been, and as much as the club means to you.You've done all you can there; now go out and be the first.
Ari McKenna


  1. I like Dempsey but sadly he is not quite good enough for a starting place in any of the EPL Champions League qualifiers.

    At Chelsea he would end up behind Mata, Hazard, Oscar and Lampard.

    At Man City there is no way he would displace Silva, Nasri or Aguero.

    At Man Utd, he would be behind Nani, Valencia, Kagawa, Young and Rooney so he wouldn't see much game time.

    Arsenal or Spurs would be the same.

    Liverpool are probably his best available option in England but they have been a bit of a graveyard for failed transfers in recent years Carroll, Aquilani, J. Cole, Keane etc... and they have no chance of breaking into the top 4 again and grabbing a CL place any time soon.

    Maybe a move to Germany or France would be the way to go.

    1. I only disagree about Arsenal if Van Persie jets, in which case they'll be searching for a new offensive identity a la Liverpool. I'm not completely convinced about Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain or Arteta, and so I do feel there's minutes available.
      I personally love the idea of speed on both wings (like Bale/Lennon @ Spurs), yet I find most Premier League coaches often opt for a speed/skill pairing (that reminds me of the mostly outdated creator/destroyer central midfield pairing in the 4-4-2) and with Walcott on one wing the Ox for me isn't a certainty to start. I also think Arsenal is the rare top-flight team he could be productive on as a forward, given their heightened ball movement and consistent wing defender overlaps.
      Napoli and Roma are good options in my opinion given their inspired style of play, and I admit I'm not that familiar with Dortmund because they don't get many cable slots in Quito.
      PSG seem to already have outspent themselves and anyone else in France may be a lateral step, because the only recent certainty for CL play, Lyon, is out this year.
      Hope somebody grabs him this year, if not I'd expect if Bradley has any degree of success at Roma he'll head there next summer.