There are two sides to every story, and behind Román Torres’ euphoric game-winning goal against Costa Rica that sent Panama to their first World Cup, there are the United States, who will miss the tournament for the first time since 1986.
Among the Seattle Sounders’ U.S. internationals are 22-year-olds Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan, as well as Clint Dempsey, who devastatingly will not receive the opportunity to compete in his fourth and likely final World Cup. Dempsey, 34, is the only American to score in three World Cups and could have further solidified his legacy as one of, if not, the best American players ever. His 57 goals are still tied with Landon Donovan for the most in U.S. men’s national team history.
Opposite Torres’ goal and Panamanian pandemonium, there is the hyper-competitive Dempsey, forced to watch matches from Russia on television next summer.
“I’m going to ask him that same question myself,” Schmetzer said when asked whether Dempsey’s mindset is OK following the U.S.’ heartbreak.
“I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but the way we look at it here is this is a big club,” he continued. “This is a big deal. MLS Cup is a big deal. I know from our conversation last year that he wanted to be on his feet for his MLS Cup victory last year. I’m hoping that he’s going to be seriously motivated to win another MLS Cup.”
Transitioning from a do-or-die international game midweek to the penultimate match of the MLS regular season is no easy task, especially given the travel and necessity to earn points in a jam-packed Western Conference, but there is still so much for which to play. Dempsey is two goals away from breaking Fredy Montero’s club goalscoring record, and Schmetzer anticipates his veteran to respond with professionalism and a chip on his shoulder that has defined his illustrious career.
“We’ve got a lot of leaders on this team, he’s been one of them since Day 1,” Schmetzer said. He leads by example. He pulls guys [aside], takes them out for dinner. So I expect that to continue.”