This is a story that probably has lots of states-side soccer fans wondering, “What the hell?”
Clint Dempsey, Tottenham Hotspur forward, maybe not their first choice to lead the line (as the Brits say), but a solid player who would get a lot of time again this season … giving up the world’s greatest league (the English Premier League; just ask them) .. for Major League Soccer and the Seattle Sounders?
Not even the Galaxy? Or New York Red Bulls?
Seattle? From London?
My theories on what is going on here:
1. As Lili von Schtupp sang in Blazing Saddles (dated reference!) … a performer can become tired. Bushed.
Seriously. I think this is a big part of this move.
Have you watched the Premier League lately? It’s 90 minutes of guys sprinting like they are being chased by knife-wielding maniacs. It is ultra intense. Crazy intense. One long sprint, a defender in your face the entire time, never any time on the ball …
And Clint Dempsey has been in the thick of it for six-plus seasons. Five-and-change with Fulham, a mid-table Premier League team, and the most recent with Tottenham, a club that has missed qualifying for the Champions League by inches the past two years.
Follow the link (above) to his wiki site and check out the work load Dempsey has hefted the past few years — 43 appearances last season, 46 the season before, then 42, 44, 41, 40 …
Compare that with his games while with the New England Revolution, when he was a young pup — three seasons, never more than 30 matches.
MLS teams may play a few more games than that, now, but North America’s top league is in no way the grind that is the Premier League. Not as many matches, not nearly the intensity. It just isn’t.
2. The ESPN story seems to suggest that Dempsey moving to the MLS will be seen as bad for his form, ahead of the final stages of qualifying for the World Cup … and for the World Cup itself, next year.
That’s flat wrong. If anything, he will be better prepared.
The man is 30. In modern soccer, that’s approaching senility, especially for an attacking player.
It’s when bodies begin to break down, especially after the heavy usage of, say, the Premier League.
Dempsey goes to the Sounders for the second half of the 2013 season. Then he will have something like three months off. He will not be tired or jaded if/when the U.S. opens Brazil 2014.
Thing is, he’s as good as he is ever going to be. He doesn’t need more matches to get a feel for elite soccer. He’s been there, done that, and now it’s more about upkeep than anything else.
That’s not to say he can’t get hurt in the MLS. Of course, he could. But it is not the bloodthirsty, hard-tackling league the Premier League is.
Fabio Capello, the former coach of England’s national team, this week suggested that England hasn’t won anything significant since 1966 — because the domestic league beats them down. He said English players show up at major events already exhausted.
(Anyone else recall England v USA in South Africa 2010? For 70 minutes, England was all over the Yanks. They had no space, no time. I was deeply impressed by the speed of it. And then the final 20 minutes … England just faded out. They had hit the wall. That whole crew, from Wayne Rooney to Steven Gerrard to John Terry had just come off the usual fierce league season, and they seemed to melt after the initial onslaught.)
3. Seattle apparently can afford Dempsey, at Premier League prices. Don’t see anyone else stepping up with a $9 million transfer fee, and willing to take on what is described as a four-year, $32 million contract. That’s “why Seattle?”
I’ve never understood how the MLS salary structure works, but apparently Seattle is OK. If they can pay English prices for Dempsey, more power to them.
And if what I’ve heard of Seattle fans is accurate, they perhaps deserve a world-class player as much as any team in the MLS. Serious fans, for a club that hasn’t been around all that long.
Dempsey is being flogged by Premier League fans (see the comments under the BBC story), but that will go away if Gareth Bale flees the team, too. That would make for a real crisis, at Tottenham.
Dempsey to Seattle? All good.