The Texas Tornado has come from the streets of Southwestern United States to the alleys of Southwest London to become one of the most valuable strikers in the English Premier League. At age 29, Clint Dempsey is at the peak of his professional career scoring 53 total goals since the beginning of last summer including 33 in the EPL. SInce arriving at Fulham, Dempsey has increased his goal scoring totals each season and has become quite possibly the most beloved American athlete on the British Isles since Kasey Keller’s time in the early 2000s.
Dempsey’s story is remarkable, coming from a working class family in Texas who gave up everything for their youngest son to fulfill his dream. “Deuce” as he is more commonly known among US faithful, engulfs a true American underdog story, and is part of why our nation’s soccer fans embraced him with so much joy. His contribution to the US National Team has been the stuff of legends from his goal versus Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup to his World Cup score versus England, Dempsey is one of the brightest soccer players in US history. There is no doubt why Dempsey has been glorified as a US great, but how has this Southern boy with humble roots been able to win over the most passionate, demanding, and antagonizing soccer fans in the world?
His Swagger: This over-saturated term is more commonly used in the context of self-proclaimed hip-hop artist and hashtags, but when it comes to Clint Dempsey, his swagger is contagious. If you remember Dempsey’s MLS days, he used celebrate goals with over-exuberance, toeing more of a “Ochocinco” line then just adrenaline reaction; but now Dempsey shows a much more different side on the pitch. Instead of fun smiles, Dempsey showcases a determined, intense, and piercing look throughout the match; while goals are followed with fist pumps rather than flips. Dempsey has admitted his change of appearance on the pitch and explains that he treats soccer as business now rather than play; whatever reason for the change it seems to be working. This intense swagger is something the British fans hold dear more than an American sporting culture; instead of smiles and get-ups, the Brits want to see seriousness, intensity, and pride for their beloved clubs. Even the nickname “Texas Tornado” describes the whirlwind of power and intimidation Dempsey exuberates each time he wears the Fulham red, white, and black. It’s a trait his supporters have grown to love even to the point where we can see USMNT kits dawning the stands of Craven Cottage.
The Right Moments: If there is one thing that will win over any sports fans, especially EPL fans is results on the playing field. Even the most beloved players and managers can turn from glory to goat in a matter of a season, Carlos Ancelotti being a prime example of EPL fan’s short memories. Dempsey has not only been able to score goals, he has been able to score consistently and at the most crucial moments. Monday night, in the pouring London rain, Clint Dempsey scored with a header from a corner in the 82nd minute to equalize against Chelsea. After an entire match of probable chances, it was that moment when Fulham needed someone to step up and Dempsey provided. Nothing endears fans to players more than big plays in big moments (ask Dallas Mavericks Jason Terry, he’s made a living off them).
The Future: The 2011/12 season has launched Clint Dempsey into a global soccer spotlight, and at fifth place in the EPL season scoring totals Deuce is one of the most coveted attackers in the league. Although Dempsey’s time at Fulham has been positive, an offer from a championship winning club would be hard to pass up in the future, especially if his form continues onto next season. Many players crack under pressure after breakout seasons, but don’t expect that to come from the Texan; if there is one thing we’ve learned from Dempsey is that he will stop at nothing to be the best and disappoint anyone who doubts him.