We got some time with Clint Dempsey on Monday, just before he and fellow-Sounders Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin were named to the USA 30-man pre-World Cup camp roster.
Here’s some of what he had to say:
On his thoughts of playing a World CUp in Brazil: I’m excited about going there. Growing up, South American-style soccer I gravitated towards. It would be really cool to go down there and play in that environment that I used to watch on TV. I never got the opportunity to play in Copa America, so getting an opportunity to go down there and play in a World Cup in an area where I grew up admiring the style of play will be exciting. And also the environment: Being able to experience that will be pretty cool
On two teammates possibly going with him: If that’s the case and three players go, obviously it’s going to be a big (hole) to fill in terms of your starting 11. But there’s a lot of depth with the Sounders. I’m sure that they will be able to do fine if us three are absent. It’s about getting back on the right track after a poor performance.
On if at 31 he looks at this as possibly his final World Cup: I look at every World Cup as if it could be your last. That’s how I’ve always approached every one that I’ve ever been a part of. You never know when you’re going to get that opportunity again to be there. It’s such a difficult process to qualify for a World Cup and a lot of things go into it. You have to maintain consistent form over a long period of time to be able to be on that team come the final selection. I just want to go as far as I can in the World Cup – it’s the same goal as every World Cup – and do the best that we can do as a team and that I can do individually. You just want to make the most of those opportunities.
On getting the call, even when it’s expected: Anytime you can represent your country it’s an honor and a privilege. You want to make the most of it because you want to keep having that feeling of being called in. The thing is, when you get selected into these camps, you have to remember, yeah, I’m selected, but there’s also going to be some more cuts after the final game, so it’s excitement but also you’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to make the most of these training sessions, of these games, to prepare so that you can make it to the roster that’s going to Brazil. And also you want to fight for that starting 11 spot so you can be on the field and can be playing in those games. Those are some of the things that are going through your mind.
On 15 MLS players getting the call: I don’t really look at things like that. I think in the two World Cup I’ve participated in, there are players in Europe and there are players in MLS. In terms of what those numbers break down to, I can’t really say that I look at them. I haven’t really thought about it in that way.
On playing withdrawn forward with the Sounders and USMNT: I’ve played different positions during my career. When I played with club, sometimes it was the same as when I played for country. Sometimes it was different. Ideally, I think it helps to be playing the same position for both, but at the same time, whatever is best for the team and being able to help the team do well is the most important thing, and you adjust according to that.
On the difficult of the group and travel: Different groups are going to deal with different travel. It comes along with it. Everybody in our group is going to have to deal with the same thing. We’ve prepared accordingly in terms of our sending off games, the travel and the turnarounds — also looking back to last summer when we had the three World Cup qualifying games with quick turnarounds and being able to adjust. I think we prepared well, but it will be something that we have to deal with and find a way to recover as quickly as you can to play at the highest level possible.
On the team going to Brazil in January camp: I didn’t get the opportunity to go to that training camp, but it only helps you to get familiar with the area, the surrounding and the environment. I think it contributed to us having success in the last World Cup when we went to the Confederations Cup in South Africa. So getting familiar with the area only helps you.
On the World Cup-MLS schedule conflict and missing games: It’s different that it will be on hold, but I experienced that during the first World Cup I had the opportunity to play in. That’s just the schedule and that’s how it has to happen. I’ll be focused on the World Cup, but at the same time I’ll be rooting the Sounders on and wish them the best, rooting for them to get as many points as possible.
On what he feels he has left to do: The last World Cup was a necessarily a success in terms of winning our group. I don’t think a lot of people would have picked us to have done that. WE got to teh knockout stages and would have liked to have moved on, but we got knocked out in that first game. It would be nice to get the opportunity to get to the knockout stages again and go a little further.
You always want to improve. The goal is to get to the knockout stages and in the knockout stages anything can happen. You want to go as far as you can possibly go. But I don’t want to put labels on this is a success, this is not a success. That’s not how we’re thinking. We’re just thinking we want to go as far as we can go and worry about it afterward.
On memories from earlier World Cups: For me the one that stands out the most is the first goal I ever scored in a World Cup against Ghana. that’s what stands out to me. It was a dream come true. When I was a little kid I would pray about one day being in a World Cup and getting the opportunity to score a goal. Having the opportunity to do that was something I’ll always look back to as a great moment in my career and my life.
On if that was the moment where he became a star: It only raises your profile when you score on the world stage and I think that’s what allowed me to [garbled] also to be able to get that move to go over to Europe. For me it was more than just being known on a global scale. For me it was accomplishing the biggest goal possible from when I was a kid, to be able to play in a world cup and score and have the opportunity to do that was such an achievement for me personally. It gave me that piece moving forward. There were other things that I was striving for, but that was the moment where I could get that little bit of peace for all the sacrifices I made.
On World Cup memories as a child: I remember … the 1986 World Cup when it was in Mexico, the year Argentina won and remember watching Diego Maradona play and some of the other countries. Seeing the passion, seeing the fans and everything like that and seeing those games. That was pretty special for me because I really loved the game, but here I am in Texas and not very many people are passionate about the sport as I am and then I’m looking on TV and seeing people from all over, from different countires that have the same passion that I do and willing their team on. That’s when I fell in love with it. To one day be on that stage and represent my country, what could be more special than that?