Dempsey knows he's crucial to the American cause at the World Cup.Only one American scored in the 2006 World Cup - Clint Dempsey.
The Texan is back for another stab at the world's biggest stage four years later. This time, however, he's no longer a youngster just happy to join on the ride. Now the weight of a nation rests on his shoulders.
"I'm a player that has more responsibility on my shoulders now," Dempsey acknowledged. "Before I was someone who was on the fringe. Was I going to make the team or not? That was kind of a toss-up. Whereas now I feel like I'm someone who has to stand up more and be counted. I have to try and affect these games in a positive way."
Over the past four years, Dempsey has matured as a starter and key attacking competent of Bob Bradley's squad. In the same time, the United States team has grown as well. Dempsey thinks the team has improved enough to advance out of the group stages this go-around.
"It's pretty much a new team,” Dempsey said. "Since then, we've won a Gold Cup, we're first in qualifying in our group stage by beating Mexico, also we got to the finals of the Confederation Cup. In this four year period we've gradually been moving in the right direction and hopefully we can continue that by advancing out of the group in the World Cup."
The United States kicks off its World Cup campaign against England in June 12. Dempsey has lined up against most of the English squad on the club level during his spell with Fulham. Though he's banking on that familiarity and experience to breed confidence, the 27-year-old still expects a tough game from the Three Lions.
"It's still going to be a tough game no matter if you play these guys week-in and week-out," Dempsey said. "I've done well three consecutive seasons over there so I'll take that confidence with me into this competition."
Dempsey has plenty of confidence to take from the current season. His unlikely Fulham blazed to the final of the Europa League, with Dempsey himself providing the decisive goal against Juventus in the Round of 16.
Following a lengthy season in Europe, the Texas native finds himself in Princeton, N.J. in a training camp as U.S. coach Bob Bradley prepares his team for South Africa. The team hasn't reached full match sharpness, says Dempsey, but friendlies such as the one against the Czech Republic on Tuesday should help.
"It's a little bit of rust with everybody trying to get used to playing with each other again, but the main focus has been fitness," Dempsey said of the training camp. "It's been pretty tough getting back to running in this heat, but things have been good and hopefully we can now start to sharpen up a little bit more and be looking to hit our top form when we hit the World Cup."
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