TUKWILA, Wash. (AP) — Clint Dempsey spent time with family, did a little fishing, let his broken nose heal and mostly ignored the World Cup.
After becoming the first American to score in three World Cups, Dempsey needed a break upon his return to the United States from Brazil. So until his appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman” the other night, Dempsey was mostly away from the spotlight.
“I got away from the game. It’s tough to watch the other teams still being in the competition and you are jealous because you still want to be part of things,” Dempsey said Friday as he rejoined the Seattle Sounders. “I was texting with different friends and family what the scores were and stuff like that so I was still involved, just not watching the games on TV. It was good for me to get a little bit of downtime.”
Dempsey hopes the U.S. loss to Belgium in the round of 16 isn’t his last World Cup game. Dempsey said he wants to continue playing with the national team as long as possible, first focusing on staying with the team through the 2016 Copa America before worrying about the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Dempsey, who turned 31 in March, believes it’s possible to still be in contention for a spot in Russia when he’s 35.
“I want to play with the national team as long as possible. I am looking forward to push and be a part of Copa America for sure. And if you can still play at a high level and perform then, yes, you try and be one of those players that play at the international level for a long time,” Dempsey said. “But you have to continue to perform. It’s not about saying you want to do it and it’s going to happen. You have to put in the work.”
The U.S. captain noted there was an undercurrent with the American team of continuing the efforts to grow the game in the states. Dempsey said the team was well aware of the attention back home.
“You want to do well. You want to continue the growth of the game and the sport and you want to continue pushing the game in the right direction in the states, and you feel that responsibility as a player,” Dempsey said.
He noted the changes that had to be made when striker Jozy Altidore went down with a hamstring injury in the first group game against Ghana. The injury forced Dempsey to play as a target forward at the top of the American attack, rather than a slightly withdrawn position where he could have seen more of the ball as a playmaker.
“Still I thought we were able to play well and get the job done,” Dempsey said. “At the end of the day we just came up a little bit short in the Belgium game.”
In the short term, Dempsey said he’ll be ready for Sunday night’s MLS game between the Sounders and rival Portland that’s expected to draw another crowd of about 65,000 in Seattle. Seattle and Portland already played one wild match this season, a 4-4 draw in April where Dempsey recorded a hat trick with two late goals that rallied the Sounders for a point.
It’ll be the second match this week between the Cascadia rivals after facing off in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday. Seattle beat Portland 3-1 in extra time to advance in the tournament.
“I’m back, I want to play,” Dempsey said.
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