Shortly after being named the U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year, Clint Dempsey scored his second hat-trick in two weeks. The 28-year-old hit three past Newcastle United on Saturday as if to underscore why he deserved the American accolade.
Dempsey's hat-trick helped Fulham come from behind at Craven Cottage. But, according to the American midfielder, he's not nearly done there.
“I always want to better myself from the year before,” Dempsey told Goal.com. “Last season I had 13 in all competitions, now I have 15 in all competitions. I have nine in the league, and last year I had 12 in the league.”
The American's nine league goals leads Fulham – nearly double the next closest on the team, Bobby Zamora with five. His totals come after a rich vein of form which includes six goals in the last three games and 10 strikes in the past 11 matches in all competitions.
“I'm happy with the way things are going and hopefully I can keep putting the ball in the back of the net,” Dempsey said. “Goals seem to come in waves. I'm just trying to keep working hard and keep enjoying the moment while I can because sooner or later they dry up on you.
“Hopefully I can keep continuing with this form as long as I can because one of my favorite parts of the game is scoring goals.”
Dempsey has led Fulham in scoring for the past four seasons. However, the Texas native thinks his homeland is only recently starting to take note of his exploits as soccer becomes more popular Stateside.
“I think in the last year or so people are starting to take a lot more notice and I think that's because there's a lot more coverage,” he said. “Even when I was doing well before, a lot of it wasn't being talked about whereas now it is and it feels good to be recognized for doing a good job.”
The recognition came after Dempsey moved to Europe. By then, of course, he had worked his way into the U.S. national team thanks to his play for the New England Revolution. But even while in Major League Soccer, Dempsey had his eye across the Atlantic.
“For me it's always been important to come to Europe and be somewhere where the game is valued as much as I value it,” he said. “Growing up that wasn't the case for me, it was like 'you're on the back-burner'. I remember it with the Revs even though I'm grateful they gave me my chance.
“It was almost like we were the step-child because as soon as the New England Patriots season started they kicked us off the training field.
“It's a good league, the league that gave me my chance and I'm grateful for that because without them I would never have made the national team and never would have played in a World Cup and been seen by clubs to get to Europe.
“I owe a lot to them and it is moving forward. So it's great to come somewhere where football is the priority and I'm loving it.”
U.S. national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann spoke after the USA's 1-0 over Venezuela about how he'd like to see Dempsey progress to the next level in Europe – up from the Europa League into the Champions League. The Texan, however, is just focused on enjoying his current sizzling streak.
“You have to be careful being on too much of a high because it's not always going to last,” he added. “You have to stay grounded – there are a lot of ups and downs, you can go from a hat-trick to playing a man up and losing.
“So I'm not going to get my feet off the ground. I know that there's a lot of work still yet to be done so hopefully this season we can finish in the top half.”