Personal Opinion Alert :: Thoughts about Clint Dempsey, the MLS and “Soccer In America”
Written By: isps|
Aug 3, 2013
*** PERSONAL OPINION ALERT ***
So the news of the last 24 hours or so is that Clint Dempsey, Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer and the Seattle Sounders have gotten things all worked out to bring the American superstar back home to play in the MLS for the Sounders. We all are super involved in the social networks, so you, like I, have seen the twitter verse in an absolute frenzy discussing the move and talking about not only the excitement surrounding the move, but also there is a strange undercurrent (to me) questioning whether or not this is a good move for Clint, his standing with the US National Team and his career overall.
Period-point blank, I happen to feel that this is one of the dumbest arguments that I have ever heard. Let me start by saying that I GET IT. I understand the argument and that there needs to be that discussion at some point, but I don’t know if that discussion needs to happen before the paperwork is even signed and the man is re-introduced to us wearing an MLS kit.
Yes, I know, I am definitely a little bit biased given that Clint is a part of the BP_TOW family, but at the same time, he is a much bigger part of the American soccer family and shouldn’t we be applauding this move and celebrating it with as much fanfare as we can?
To be clear, there is waaaaay more excitement and happiness that I am seeing everywhere that he is coming back but there are still a lot of people making statements and saying that this is literally, a career killing move. Wait, what!?!
*** PERSONAL OPINION ALERT ***
Lets start with some facts.
Clint Dempsey is from Texas. Clint Dempsey was drafted in 2004 by the New England Revolution in 2004, helped lead the team to the Eastern Conference Finals and was named Rookie of the Year. While with the Revs, Clint Dempsey scored a lot of goals, assisted on a lot of goals and played in the MLS Cup Finals in 2006.
In 2006, Fulham offered MLS $4 million for the transfer of Dempsey, which at that time was the largest amount ever offered for an MLS player. In the course of 5 years, he went from scoring a goal that save them from relegation to undoubtedly the teams best player, scoring the most goals and being voted in 2013, the Fulham ‘Player of the Season’ for the second straight year. Even with all of that success some still questioned how good Clint was….
In August of 2012, the big call came and Clint joined Tottenham Hotspur on a three year contract, which was reported to be in the range of about $22 million.
*** PERSONAL OPINION ALERT ***
Now, Clint wasn’t kitting up with Manchester United or Chelsea, but please believe, getting signed to that kind of money from Tottenham tells us everything we need to know about how good he is and what they thought of his talent and skill level. Clint continued with plenty of magic scoring 7 goals in 28 appearances for the club, and the latest intel is that he is being transferred to the MLS and Seattle Sounders, again, for big time money.
Terms of the latest deal are not yet known but some reports have Dempsey due to receive $32 million in base salary. Also, according to NBC Sports, Seattle will pay a $9 million transfer fee — the highest in MLS history.
Clint is also captain of the US National Team and only 30 years old.
Now, if you know my work and purpose here on TOW, it all starts with my I.S.P.S. handle, which stands for “I Shouldve Played Soccer”, which is sort of tongue in cheek, but also a pretty literal epigram of my whole standing in the game. I shouldve played… if I knew then what I know now, I would have. But at the same time, I dont know anything close to as much as the ardent supporter, so I sometimes see things differently than most.
*** PERSONAL OPINION ALERT ***
When I started seeing the people talking about this being a bad move for Clint, I literally thought out loud, “Are you fucking kidding me! What are people thinking?”
In the few years that I have watched, and this is from my perspective obviously, there is the Premier League, there is La Liga, there is Serie A, recently Bundesliga, and then there is basically everyone else. I know that there are quality teams and quality players and quality leagues that arent in those top 4, but there isnt nearly the same amount of noise in the other leagues, at least here stateside. The MLS is different because it is our league and of course we will hear a lot of chatter about that, but its commonly thought of that the MLS is not nearly as competitive as the other leagues.
There are reasons for that but its not something that we need to get in depth about in this post, but I will touch on it. The money is different meaning it by nature isnt going to attract the top talent. The league is extremely young in comparison to the other leagues, so the talent and tradition isnt going pull the better players like the other leagues will. America doesnt focus on soccer like other countries do, which adds to the points made earlier, the money is different, it doesnt have the tradition, the league has to work harder than a football or basketball or a baseball because its not on tv all the time so kids cant visualize themselves as a Kobe Bryant or Derek Jeter all through middle school and high school when the talent really needs to be mined and developed. Consequently, we dont get kids continuing to play through the athletic formative years because unless there is an absolute passion for the sport, kids cant really see the advantages to playing soccer past AYSO and early teen club years.
All that being said, the general consensus, from someone who wasnt raised in this soccer life, is that really good American soccer players are athletic outliers and for them to get the most out of their abilities and to make a huge name for themselves, they will need to play overseas at some point, make their bones there, and that is pretty much the end of it. Which makes sense to me, or at least it made a lot of sense to me a few years back before I knew everything that I know now about this game and what kind of tradition that America has in soccer.
As an American, the question that I’ve had since I became involved in the game on a small level, and I’m sure that we all have, is at what point is that kind of idea, going to end?
At what point, what event, or what chain of events is going to change that?
At what point will the kids that are waaaay better than everyone else at 10 years old and 12 years old and 15 years old going to be told, ‘you need to be playing soccer, and not basketball. or football. or baseball?’ At what point are we going to get a share of the best athletes that America produces to play soccer instead of other sports.
Thats not taking ANYTHING away from the players that we do have now, but my reality is that soccer could easily be the biggest sport (or one of the biggest sports in America) if we had a LeBron James in the midfield or someone like a Desean Jackson on the end of passing converting goals.
Some of the reasons that guys like that dont continue playing soccer as they get older is because they cant see it. We’ve never had a homegrown talent that has been great and crossed over outside of the soccer community.
They guys we have are world class, the guys that we have are among the best to play the game… But respective to the population that we have in the United States there arent enough of those guys playing the game. Are you telling me that there aren’t AT LEAST 100 guys that could be Mario Balotelli in the United States but they are messing around while they are 14 and 15 years old trying to become the next Allen Iverson instead of the next Jozy Altidore or Brek Shea or Michael Bradley or Tim Howard or better?
For me, some of the ‘whys’ are simplybecause the kids just dont know that its out there and possible. Not for nothing, one of the things that is a real statement here, is that there is a draw to the three major American sports because kids see their favorite stars driving nice rigs, wearing nice clothes, and getting the hottest girls. Its an exposure thing. Its seeing them in commercials on tv and in highlights on Sportscenter and on an NBC or ESPN “Game of the Whatever.”
Moves like this front Clint, could shine a light on some of the soccer personalities that you and I know, and those stories. A move like this gets us closer to being the sport that attracts more eyes to TVs and iPads and more people in the stands and more money in the coffers to draw the best players, become one of the best leagues, and get those kids believing that they can be that next guy.
As you can probably read, I’m somewhat of an eternal optimist and I’d like to think that a move like this one, with an American star, who made his bones overseas, is still playing at an extremely high level, comes and plays in his domestic league, which just so happens to be the MLS.
I dont want to overplay the hand here and go overboard, but this is one of the greatest things ever to happen to the MLS, “Soccer in America”, American Soccer, Clint Dempsey, and probably most importantly us fans of all of those things. CLint Dempsey is still, really really good at playing soccer. Clint Dempsey is an American kid, from Texas, that is hella cool, talks well and is charismatic. We’ve had ‘saviors’ before to come to the MLS, from overseas with big names, who in my mind came at a time when the league didnt need saving. (David Beckham is a different story lol)
To me, the fact that Clint is coming back to play in the MLS, says more to me about the strength of the league and what he thinks that he can add to it, more than what it means for his game and his career and what coming here can do for him.
And that is just on a professional tip. It tells me that he believes the league is strong enough, he believes the team is strong enough, he believes the soccer in America thing is strong enough and its a pretty good time for him to come here and play.
Personally, I’m pretty sure that it even more important to play in the MLS and America, that what can obviously be done overseas. The kid is from Texas. Why would he NOT want to come here and play? I’m sure he made a ton of friends overseas and has drones of fans that wear his shirt and buy the products he endorses and love the clubs he played for, just because they liked him…. but that would pale in comparison to what it would mean to play for the league in his home country.
Being able to have his friends from high school come see him when the Sounders make their way to Texas and play. How awesome will it be for all of us to be able to turn on NBC Sports Network next season and see all of his games at a time that is not the ass crack of dawn. There is a lot to be said, about being able to do your job, close to home. If my options were to make a ton of money in a foreign country (that I’ve been in for a decade already) or to make a ton of money doing the exact same thing a few hundred (or thousand) miles from where I was born and raised, I’m choosing the good ole US of A every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
image via MLS on FB
If someone wants to assume that him playing in the MLS is downgrading, they better get to working the google machine and look around and see how good this kid is. I would change my twitter handle to “@CheckMyStatsFOoL!!
But thats just me….
The other argument is that this may hurt his MNT standing. Thats ridiculous. If you got game, and he’s got it in spades, you will be fine. I dont think playing in the MLS has hurt Lando. Do you think playing with another MNT’er Eddie Johnson will be bad for Clint/USMNT/Us?
The other side of that is this… he’ll be an MLS player who is BALLING out for the US National Team. When other players see that, they will know how good the competition is here and it will send shockwaves throughout the world.
This is me talking, but I am super curious to hear all of the OG Wingers opinions as well. Feel free to hit me on Twitter or in teh comments section to get this discussion going…
I’m not done writing this really, because I have a LOT more to say about it, but had to run out to Dodger Stadium for the Everton v. Real Madrid match #humbleBrag
Here is another thing that I was thinking about real quick too…. how about the fact that him making that kind of jack, means that it can only be good for players in this league and OTHER players that might come here both foreign and domestic? Do you think that something like this puts a little birdy in a Cristiano Ronaldo’s ear?
Remember that point I was talking about earlier about salaries being lower not attracting top talent thus not making the league overall as strong as it could be… this seems like its something that could change things. You know, there are a few billionaire owners in Major League Soccer that dont mind spending money on players and-oh-by-the-way NYC FC and their brain trust has some reaaaaally deep pockets and I would bet everything I own that something like this had everyone in their corporate office firing off emails and text messages like nobodies business just thinking of the possibilities.
This is good people, this is really good.
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