Last week was a big week for Major League Soccer as U.S. National Team captain Clint Dempsey left Tottenham in the English Premier League to join Sounders FC, making his club debut on Saturday in a 2-1 win over Toronto FC.
While Dempsey wasn’t included on the roster for the U.S. National Team’s friendly on Wednesday against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said on Monday that he was focused on letting Dempsey get fitness and cohesion with his new club in Seattle.
“For the most part we wanted to leave the MLS players behind because it’s a long way to go for a mid-week game in the heart of the season and many of them were with us a lot during the summer. This gives us a chance to look at some different players as well,” Klinsmann said, noting the inclusion of Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans as the only MLS players on the roster. “I told Sigi Schmid that it’s no problem to leave Clint off this roster. It’s been a long week for Clint and he is still in preseason and getting a rhythm, so we leave him in Seattle and get him ready for the games in September.”
Dempsey, who has 99 caps with the U.S. and is captain of a side that is just one win away from clinching a berth in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, made waves with his move to Seattle while still in the prime of his career at just 30 years old.
Klinsmann acknowledged the magnitude of that move for MLS and for soccer in America. He doesn’t share the concern of some pundits, though, that the move to MLS will diminish his ability to contribute to the U.S. in the buildup to the World Cup or in the tournament itself in Brazil next summer.
“Clint himself has set the highest benchmark for himself over the last year. He became our captain and he has to keep that benchmark and he knows that,” Klinsmann said. “Obviously we want the best Clint Dempsey ever and that’s what we’re going to push him toward as we begin to look toward Brazil. He has set a high standard for himself, and it’s up to us coaches to make sure he keeps that high standard.”
Part of developing that standard has been responding to challenges laid before him. Raising the profile of Major League Soccer while contributing to Sounders FC as it makes a run at the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs is another challenge for him and one Klinsmann is confident he can succeed in.
“I am thrilled for MLS because you have an outstanding player now hopefully filling more stadiums and getting even more kids and people excited about the game. For Clint, it’s a challenge,” Klinsmann said.