There was a minor panic among United States Men’s National Team fans this morning when Clint Dempsey, the highest profile USMNT’er playing abroad, wasn’t in Tottenham Hotspur’s starting XI to face Stoke.
Not only was he not in the lineup, he wasn’t on the bench. What was going on?
Sure, Dempsey’d been struggling since moving over from Fulham, but particularly since being moved out left when André Villas-Boas went to a two forward formation, Dempsey seemed to be rounding into form. Perhaps his last couple of games could have been better, but the overall trend has been upward.
Yet there we were, early Saturday morning, willing to tolerate watching a Stoke match, only Dempsey was nowhere to be found. And since there was no hint in the buildup that Dempsey would miss today’s match, things were looking suspicious.
As it turns out, Dempsey picked up a slight groin injury, and with Gareth Bale returning from his own fitness concerns to man the left side, “Deuce” was scratched. Spurs went on to draw Stoke, 0-0.
The decision does present an issue for Dempsey going forward. If Villas-Boas is selecting his best team for a 4-4-2 formation, Dempsey’s not in it. Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermaine Defoe are up top. Bale and Aaron Lennon are going to play wide. Dempsey is likely relegated to the bench.
It’s not the worst place to be. With Dempsey’s versatility, he should still get plenty of starts. Villas-Boas clearly believes in his ability, so Dempsey could be the first choice to rotate in at any forward or wide midfield spot. In a pinch, he can even play central midfield.
It’s not going to be what Dempsey wants, and U.S. Men’s National Team fans will be only slightly behind in their disappointment. But if Dempsey is squeeze out by Bale’s return to health, he’ll still see plenty of playing time.