Forward Clint Dempsey opened up in an exclusive, one-on-one interview with Sounders broadcaster Steve Zakuani to discuss the United States' failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup last month. The USMNT star shared his thoughts on his disappointment of not qualifying, his future with the national team and how he believes the U.S. can fix its current structure.
“You’re disappointed, more so for the country – not being able to continue its run of qualifying cycle after cycle after cycle of being in World Cups," Dempsey said. "For me, I was blessed to be able to be a part of three, to contribute in three, to score four World Cup goals, to captain a team last World Cup in the ‘Group of Death’ and being able to get out of that.
“In terms of playing for the U.S. [national] team and playing in World Cups – I’ve definitely, definitely been blessed. It’s very disappointing not to make that happen, but hopefully it’s a good opportunity to shuffle things up and make changes.”
Dempsey, 34, was quick to note youth development was an area that the U.S. should look to build upon. He also mentioned coach selection, coaching and style of play as facets of the game that needs to be scrutinized and, ultimately, improved.
“Hopefully it’s one of those situations where you take one step back to take two steps forward,” Dempsey said.
Despite not being able to have the opportunity to play in four FIFA World Cups, Dempsey pointed out how bad he felt for the younger players of the squad, who have yet to experience playing in the world’s biggest tournament.
“That will be fuel for them and I know they will right the wrong the next time World Cup Qualifying cycle comes around.”
The Nacogdoches, Texas, native noted that there are challenges in qualifying in CONCACAF – particularly with tough environments in the away matches – but he doesn’t see it as a valid excuse.
“We need to be better,” he said succinctly. "There needs to be improvements. We need to be producing better players. We need to be playing a better style. Hopefully that will happen in the future.”
While Dempsey seeks improvement on a national scale, it is still unknown how much of a presence he’ll have on the national team moving forward. He is currently tied with Landon Donovan as the nation’s top goalscorer with 57 international tallies.
“In terms of what I’ve been able to accomplish with the national team, I am at peace with it. It’s not really about me, it’s about the group of guys they want to be moving forward.”