Clint Dempsey (pictured) has scored 55 goals for the United States in an international career that started in November 2004. (Photo: Victor Straffon/Straffon Images)
SAN JOSE, California – United States forward Clint Dempsey returned to international football in the most spectacular way possible Friday night, recording a hat-trick.
Forced from playing for club and country due to an irregular heartbeat last fall, Dempsey finished netting by the 54th minute of a 6-0 World Cup Qualifying victory over Honduras at Avaya Stadium.
“I’m a fighter,” Dempsey said afterwards. “Look for the opportunity to get out there and show that I should be around still.”
Even though he was given medical clearance to play for the Seattle Sounders and the national team, the 34-year-old admitted he had some doubts on returning to play and to high-level performances.
“You don’t know if things are going to work,” remarked Dempsey. “You don’t know if you’re going to come back to Seattle, also if you’re going to do well enough to get called back into the U.S. team, how you’re going to perform. You still want to be someone in games who can make an impact.
“There’s moments where you’re sitting at home praying and hoping things work out. I’m just blessed I can keep going. It’s something I love to do. Hopefully, there’s more time left.”
Last week, Dempsey showed his form in Seattle’s 3-1 home opening victory over the New York Red Bulls.
“Checking with his fitness coaches there, we knew he could play,” U.S. head coach Bruce Arena commented.
Dempsey was initially down on the squad’s depth chart. Then, Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris were ruled out due to injuries and Arena picked the veteran to partner with Jozy Altidore.
“We didn’t have anyone else,” said Arena. “It made it easy for me.”
Dempsey struck within a 22-minute span. By the time the dust settled, he had 55 career international goals, trailing only Landon Donovan -- the USA’s all-time goals leader – by two.
Most importantly, the U.S. (1W-0D-2L, 3 points) walked out of the stadium with three valuable points as it moved out of the CONCACAF Hexagonal basement into fourth place with a meeting at Panama (1-1-1, 4) on Tuesday night.