Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan did not want to disappoint their coach after he allowed them to leave the team on Saturday to be with their families.WASHINGTON, D.C. - It might be the Gold Cup knockout stage, but it’s also wedding season for the United States men’s national team.
It’s a good thing the players have such an understanding coach.
Both Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey attended weddings for their sisters on Saturday and returned to the team early Sunday morning, just hours before the U.S. played Jamaica in the quarterfinals in Washington, D.C.
“I know we get caught up in the soccer world, but there certainly are things that are equally, if not more important to a lot of us,” Donovan said. “I’m very grateful that Bob and U.S. Soccer made all the efforts they did to not only let us go but to get us here so that we could contribute tonight.”
Dempsey was back with his teammates in D.C. from Texas at around 2 a.m. ET, while Donovan arrived after a red-eye flight from California at 7:30 a.m. ET. Both played in the 2-0 win, but only Dempsey started the game while Donovan entered as a substitute at the 66th minute.
“To go to the wedding, regardless I was gonna go because that’s my sister, that’s my family,” Dempsey said. “But we have a manager that’s understanding about family and understands that we were able to make it work out.”
Dempsey went on to score his team’s second goal, which locked up a place in the semifinals next Wednesday in Houston.
“I wanted to show (Bradley) that I wasn’t gonna let it bother me by having that flight,” Dempsey added. “I was gonna work as hard as I could for him and try to help this team win, and I think I did that today."
Donovan understood Bradley’s decision to have him come off the bench, considering he didn’t get much sleep the night before the game. When asked if he could have played all 90 minutes, Donovan said, “I highly doubt it, given everything that happened.”
“I always want to play, but those decisions are for the coaches,” Donovan said. “I’m always respectful of the coach’s decision and I just wanted to make sure I could help tonight.”
Bradley made the decision to let both players leave despite the fact that his team was in a do-or-die game and his job could be in jeopardy if they couldn’t advance to the next round. But Bradley wasn’t worried about being second guessed, saying, “I don’t worry about that.”
“There are times when players come to you with personal requests and as a coach you have an idea of how you think things should be done,” he said. “That’s especially true with the national team, you try hold the bar as high as you can.
"But at the same time you have to understand what families mean to them. You have to sometimes weigh things to make decisions. Ultimately, with speaking different points to Landon and Clint, I knew how important both of these days were for them. We were fortunate I guess that we were playing on the 19th and not the 18th because I don’t think they were going to switch the weddings.”
Either way, everything worked out in the end.