Despite minor injury, Dempsey back in USMNT fold

The nation's captain is back in the mix with the USA after a somewhat bumpy return to MLS

A calf strain may have derailed his chances of appearing in a pair of friendlies over the next two weeks, but Sounders FC forward and U.S. National Team captain Clint Dempsey is well on pace to leading the Americans into the charge toward the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

According to U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Dempsey’s time in Seattle didn’t affect his status with the national team and as soon as he returns to fitness he will maintain that captaincy and the coming months will go a long way in showing that.

“We are excited to have Clint back. He’s our captain. It was a huge transition for him going back into MLS, struggling with injuries, not having had a preseason with Seattle,” Klinsmann said before Dempsey suffered a calf strain in training on Wednesday that ruled him out of friendlies against Scotland and Austria. “The results didn’t work out the way he wanted them to be in Seattle, but we could see that he, step by step, is getting back in a rhythm, attacking the game and looking good.”

Dempsey was limited to nine matches after joining Sounders FC on August 3, scoring his only goal in the regular season finale and adding his first assist in a 2-0 playoff win over the Colorado Rapids.

He is one of three Sounders that featured regularly for the U.S. in 2013, joining Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson. Those three, and other MLS-based players with eyes on Brazil next summer, may take advantage of loan stints with European clubs this offseason to breed more competition as the World Cup approaches.

“We made it clear, our priority number one for them is finding a team to get on loan for January-February into March, or if that is not possible, you have to be with us in January camp. That is mandatory,” Klinsmann said.

January camp will begin January 6 in Carson, California.

The U.S. squad for the friendlies is absent of several other MLS players, as well. Landon Donovan and Clarence Goodson are both out with injuries, while Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Brad Davis, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler all weren’t included while their club teams remain in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Along with Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, Omar Gonzalez and Chris Wondolowski, Evans and Johnson are among the group mentioned by Klinsmann.

“If a player has the opportunity to go on loan, you’ve got to go for it. You’re in real competition, you’re in a real competitive environment, you’ve got to have a point to prove and kick-start 2014 that way,” Klinsmann said. “We all observe their individual situation. Whenever we can be of help, we will be. But it is important to us to cut short their vacation time, not making it longer than four weeks in December because it would take far too long to get back into shape and get back into a rhythm before the beginning of 2014 and we can’t afford that.”

Evans and Johnson both figure to feature prominently for the U.S. in friendlies over the next week.

Friday’s match with Scotland kicks off at 12 pm PT from Glasgow’s Hampden Park with national television coverage on ESPN 2 while the match against Austria on November 20 comes at Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna and will kick off at 11:45 am PT on NBC Sports Network.

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