It should be obvious to everyone why Clint Dempsey is not part of the 23-man U.S. roster named Monday by Jurgen Klinsmann for this week’s quick in-and-out to face Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo.
It should be.
After all, Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and others from the MLS side of the U.S. player pool were also sidelined for this mid-week quickie. It really is a case of “Nothing to see here, folks. Just move along … “
But the U.S. Soccer community can be a cynical and sometimes conspiratorial place. A corner of the fandom and some in the chattering class are inclined to believe that Dempsey may have just landed on Jurgen Klinsmann’s naughty list.
(MORE: Notes and conclusions from Monday’s roster announcement)
While it’s true that Klinsmann encourages ambition, and while it’s true that the manager’s constant harping on individual improvement, what I like to call the “blessedness of discontent,” is a bedrock of his home improvement initiative, I just don’t buy it. Dempsey’s move back into MLS may not have been Klinsmann’s first choice for his team captain, but it’s hardly a deal-killer in their relationship.
It may take a slight edge off Dempsey’s game, but does anyone truly believe the man suddenly devolved into a substantially diminished talent just by switching from one jersey to another?
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Klinsmann said this morning in a U.S. Soccer Q&A:
“It’s been a huge week. Having Clint back in the United States and joining MLS is big and I think everyone in the U.S. is excited about the news. I am thrilled for MLS because you have an outstanding player now hopefully filling more stadiums and getting even more kids and people excited about the game. For Clint it’s a challenge, coming from one of the top leagues in the world, coming back to the U.S. and being back in MLS where we still have to work on a lot of things. Clint himself has set the highest benchmark for himself over the last year. He became our captain and he has to keep that benchmark and he knows that. I told him that over the last two years that he’s got to go for the next level. Obviously we want the best Clint Dempsey ever and that’s what we’re going to push him toward as we begin to look toward Brazil. He has set a high standard for himself, and it’s up to us coaches to make sure he keeps that high standard .”
Klinsmann noted the distance involved for a mid-week contest between MLS match days. And he referenced Dempsey still being in preseason. Better, the manager said, for Dempsey to remain in Seattle and get himself ready for the more-important U.S. World Cup qualifiers coming up in September.