No Dempsey, No Problem

by Nick Sarebi

by Nick Sarebi

US Soccer announced yesterday that Clint Dempsey won’t be available for the US-Honduras game on Saturday due to a shoulder injury. Few US fans are shedding a tear. Steve Davis at Daily Soccer Fix rightly asks “Is this a good thing?” The fact that this is a legitimate question says something about Dempsey.

While there is no doubt that Dempsey is one of our best players, his last few performances have been poor. Yes he has scored some goals and turned it on in the confed cup, but he has lacked the same effort and drive that characterizes his play for Fulham. He has been casual in possession (remember the last Honduras game – it was his nonchalance in the midfield that led to a Honduran goal) and has failed to track back. His work-rate for a midfielder has simply not been good enough. The Trinidad game was in some ways the last straw for me and I thought Dempsey should have been benched at half time. My biggest fear was that Dempsey was becoming this cycles Damarcus Beasley: someone who was playing based on reputation not recent performances.

Hopefully with Dempsey out someone else will step up and put some heat on Clint. Bradley has a number of quality options in Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, and Jose Torres. Each offer something slightly different. Here are the three options.

1. Benny Feilhaber. Honduras has a very strong central midfield anchored by Spurs’ Wilson Palacios. Therefore I could see Bradley going with the more experienced Feilhaber playing on the right but with the freedom to move centrally. This would be similar to the lineup Bradley used to some affect against Italy. Clark and Bradley sat in a holding role with Feilhaber playing in a creative role. Feilhaber is the only true number 10 we have and his passing can suddenly unlock defenses – witness that Italy game, it was his ball over the top to Jozy that led to the penalty.

2. Stuart Holden. Holden is a like-for-like replacement for Dempsey and most fans are excited about what he brings to the table. He can play more as an out and out winger and has shown an ability to put in a good cross. He also has a great work-rate. In watching Holden, he reminds me of the Clint Dempsey of the 06 cycle – remember Dempsey didn’t start the first game of the World Cup.

3. Jose Torres. Probably unlikely to get the start, although he certainly should be in the picture. He is a very crafty player that is very technically sound. He could also play on the left pushing Donovan to the right.

I think Holden will probably get the nod to start, but I would probably pick Feilhaber who is a bit more experienced and a better passer.


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