It still seems more prudent for a man who has not played a single competitive minute since June to come off the bench tonight.
Then, Clint Dempsey, fresh off that Fulham holdout, could re-evaluate prospects for a start next week at home, when the United States meets Jamaica for the second time in five days.
But listening to the words rising from Jamaica, where the U.S. trained Thursday ahead of tonight’s qualifiers, it sounds like a start for Dempsey is far from out of the question.
I was able to do some fitness in England. When I got [U.S. training], we were able to see what my base was. They were happy with that, but you can’t really replicate what it is like to play in a game until you get out and play in it and train in the type of conditions with humidity and heat. That’s been more of an adjustment. You try to work on your sharpness, and that’s going to come with games.”
Options if Dempsey doesn’t start? Probably a more defensive look, something closer to a 4-5-1- than a 4-3-3. In that scenario, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman would almost surely start.
Or, don’t rule out the possibility of Maurice Edu re-appearing in the midfield alongside Jones and Beckerman.
In that case, the wings might be pushed slightly higher up the field, with Brek Shea on one side, plus Danny Williams or Graham Zusi on the other.
By the way, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t sound too awfully turned off by prospects of a Dempsey appearance in the starting XI. (Then again, that man sounds excited about everything.) Said Klinsmann of Dempsey: “He looks good, he looks sharp in training and overall the last three or four days went really well.”