Clint Dempsey scored against England in the 2010 World Cup and will be on broadcast duty in Qatar for the rematch on Friday.
Ahead of the big game, he chatted with former Fulham team-mate Danny Murphy about American football, dangerous men for Gareth Southgate and his own emotional reunion with former England goalkeeper Robert Green.
Clint Dempsey was the best coach I ever played with. He was first, Jamie Carragher second and Robbie Keane third. This incredible training took him from rural Texas to the Premier League and the World Cup. Even if he had played well, he would be upset unless he had a direct impact on a game with a goal or an assist.
It’s an elite attitude that played to its advantage against England at the 2010 World Cup, when their unlikely pot shot slipped through goalkeeper Rob Green to hand the United States a draw Memorable 1-1 in Rustenburg.
The goal will be repeated before the two countries meet again in Qatar this week. Like me, Clint will be covering the tournament for television and during our interview it was clear that the memories of the last encounter are still strong.
Clint Dempsey’s 25-yard goal against England in the 2010 World Cup snatched a point for USA
Dempsey’s shot crossed the goal line after England goalkeeper Rob Green fumbled
The goalkeeper could only watch his goal in horror as the ball flew past his posts
Green sat face down on the Rustenburg pitch as Dempsey celebrated with his teammates
“There was a lot of buzz when the draw came out and playing and living in England, all I heard was America would be an easy team to play against,” he said. “It added to the chip on my shoulder. As an American, you always felt you had to be better than a European player to get into the team.
“There was a lot of chatter, although it wasn’t all serious. Mike Kelly [Roy Hodgson’s assistant at Fulham] was always cheering me up and you should tell me to try to relax. I definitely felt motivated and had a point to prove against England.
“Steven Gerrard scored first, then put me down with a tackle. I spent the rest of the match trying to get him back and finally got past him before shooting Robert Green. I consider it a lucky goal. The Jabulani ball used during this World Cup moved a little more than usual.
“It’s funny because my dad played American football so he couldn’t give me too much advice, but one thing he always said was, ‘If you don’t shoot you can’t score’.
Green was then dropped by Fabio Capello and, although he rebuilt his career at club level, the blunder was never forgotten. He recently visited CBS studios in America to discuss this historic moment with Clint.
Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard gave the Three Lions the perfect start to the contest
The Howler signaled the end of Green’s campaign as he was replaced by David James (above)
“It was emotional and I told him that I felt my late sister played a role in my score,” Dempsey said. “She passed away suddenly at 16, but we always said as kids that we would have a sign to show that we were always looking out for each other, and hers was to help me score a goal.”
The comparisons between the England and USA teams in 2010 and now are fascinating. Arguably England had better individual players then in John Terry, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney, but are collectively better under manager Gareth Southgate.
America had a few stars in South Africa like Clint and Landon Donovan, but even they weren’t at Europe’s top clubs, unlike the 2022 squad, which has players from Chelsea, AC Milan, of Juventus and Borussia Dortmund.
“We had big players on smaller teams, now you have Americans on big teams, but they’re not the centerpieces,” Dempsey explains. “The best are young, 24 or younger. Christian Pulisic [Chelsea]Weston McKennie [Juventus]Brenden Aaronson [Leeds]Tyler Adams [Leeds]Gio Reina [Dortmund]Sergino Dest [AC Milan] and Yunus Musah [Valencia].
England had better individuals in 2010 but they are collectively better under Gareth Southgate
“There is a golden generation feel. They have a lot of potential but there is more youth than experience. USA usually play 4-3-3 and it suits us to play against better teams that we can counter. If the opponents sit down, it’s harder to break them down, so England may suit us more than the game against Wales.
“Our strongest area is the midfield. Adams, McKennie and Musah can really move. They can put out the fires and move on. The biggest question mark is who is going to be our goalkeeper, main centre-forward partner and Walker Zimmerman centre-back.
I was impressed watching Aaronson and Adams at Leeds. Man for man, the USA team looks stronger to me than Wales, although Dempsey warns: “We can’t afford to lose this first one or it will be a mountain to climb.”
He lives in North Carolina these days but still retains his Texas accent. He divides his time between sports pundits, where the CBS list includes Jamie Carragher and Micah Richards, fishing and hunting — and raising five kids, with a sixth on the way.
Ex-Fulham man claimed there was a ‘Golden Generation’ feel to Gregg Berhalter’s squad
USA have a strong midfield with the likes of Tyler Adams (4) and Weston McKennie (8)
Dempsey also claimed the USA team were stronger ‘man for man’ than Wales
As America co-hosts the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico, he is confident the growth of “soccer” will continue. The opportunities are much better than when he was growing up and his parents had to drive three hours to Houston or Dallas for him to get a real game.
“That battle with basketball, baseball and American football will always be there, but it’s getting better,” he says. “The average American will listen to World Cup games and we will also have fans in Qatar. You start to see less pay to play. Many MLS academies foot the bill for kids to play, giving everyone an opportunity if you’re good enough to get into teams. It’s a big help. I wouldn’t have survived if my parents hadn’t used my college funds hoping it would work out.
Danny Murphy and Dempsey played together at Fulham (pictured in 2012)
“Qualifying for this World Cup after missing out on Russia will boost interest. The 2026 World Cup will mean more money for the development of the game.’
I must admit that I was surprised to see Clint end up in the media. He didn’t give much guidance when we were teammates but I’ve seen clips and he’s having fun, especially with Carra and Micah.
Like me, he likes to take risks on the pitch. Too many players play the pass safely and return to the locker room happy to have a 90% success rate. Clint would try his luck. I remember one game yelling at him not to shoot and he put one in the top corner from 30 yards out.
He’s clearly excited about what the current young Americans can do in the future, although there’s some debate over whether it’s a tournament too soon. On the England side, there are two players Dempsey would be happy not to see on the scoresheet.
“Harry Kane stands out for me as a great player with the goals he gets. The other one is Jude Bellingham,” he says. “He reminds me of former midfielders Stevie G and Lampard being box to box. He is special.
Young Jude Bellingham is a player Dempsey would be happy not to see on the squad roster
“On the other hand, it seems like it’s been a while since England have had a world-class goalkeeper. Jordan Pickford has done well, but given the investment you have in England, it’s surprising that you don’t have a goalkeeper at a Champions League club.
“I hope England and USA qualify, like in 2010. I also hope it’s an omen that England never beat us in the World Cup.”
“For the tournament itself, Brazil and Argentina are my advisers. Brazil won the qualifiers and Argentina won the last Copa America. Someone told me the World Cup final could be Lionel Messi’s 1,000th game. What a story that would be.