It’s all going wrong for Clint Dempsey at the club level.
He was supposed to be moving upwards into the Champions League – his lifelong aspiration – when he moved to Tottenham. He hardly saw the field.
He was supposed to be escaping obscurity and moving home to help the Seattle Sounders make their deepest ever run in the MLS playoffs. They flopped down the stretch and meekly bowed out in the first round.
And now, he’s supposed to make a triumphant return to Craven Cottage, taking two months to turn things around, sharpen his game, and maybe save the club he once earned Player of the Year honors.
Except he hasn’t done any of those.
As Fulham dive further and further into the murky depths of the Premier League table, the biggest concern around the United States remains the form of their national team’s 30-year-old captain.
He hasn’t exactly played badly, but the problem is he hasn’t done anything – at all.
Since joining Fulham at the beginning of the new year, he’s played in four matches for the Premier League side – two in the league and two in the FA Cup. The Cottagers lost three of those (including a thumping by Jozy Altidore’s relegation-threatened Sunderland), scoring a mere two goals in those games. Dempsey was involved in neither.
The scariest part of it all is that the Texas native moves around the pitch like he’s running underwater. He has no drive, no pace, and no confidence.
It hasn’t helped that Dempsey has been an afterthought in manager Rene Meulensteen’s on-field tactics, with most of the buildup played through the wings, with players like Alex Kacaniklic and Ashkan Dejagah the focus of Fulham’s attack today in the loss to Swansea.
But Dempsey has looked like a lost child when he is involved. Take a look at his received passes in the Premier League losses to Swansea and Arsenal:
He’s all over the field with no clear direction, and the attacking third is an absolute wasteland. Dempsey has barely sniffed the ball in the attacking third not just in those two matches but overall at Craven Cottage. It’s disheartening not just for USMNT fans but for Fulham supporters yearning for the Dempsey of old. Instead, they have a shell of his former self.
In addition to his lack of output, Dempsey’s fitness has been an issue. In his three Premier League matches, the midfielder was substituted out twice, in the 71st minute and 79th minute, and on both occasions it was about 10 minutes too late.
Whether he can turn things around for the MLS season is one thing, but the question is quickly becoming can Clint turn things around for the World Cup? An essential piece of Jurgen Klinsmann’s national side, a Clint Dempsey in poor form would certainly go a long way to derail the United States’ chances for even escaping their group.
Hopefully, for Fulham’s sake, for the Seattle Sounders’ sake, for the national team’s sake, and for his own personal good, Clint Dempsey can turn things around, because his subpar club performances are becoming more than just an occurrence, they’re becoming a trend.