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Healthy Clint Dempsey belongs on ‘any roster the U.S. has,’ Bruce Arena says

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It doesn’t sound like form was ever a concern for USMNT head coach.

Soccer: 2016 Copa America Centenario-Ecuador  at USA Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few months, Bruce Arena has gone back and forth a couple times on the whether or not he intended to bring in Clint Dempsey for the pair of upcoming World Cup qualifiers. In a Facebook Live session on Thursday, though, Arena made it pretty clear that the only question in his mind was about Dempsey’s fitness, as opposed to any concern over form.

Until playing in the Seattle Sounders’ past two games, Dempsey had not played in a competitive match in more than six months. The last time he suited up for the USMNT was last July’s Copa America, where he led the team in scoring. He remains five goals shy of Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT scoring record.

“We’ve dealt with his fitness coach and seen his improvement,” Arena said when asked about the decision to include Dempsey. “We really feel that on any roster the U.S. has, if you can include a healthy Clint Dempsey — in any kind of manner or form — it’s a plus. So, that’s why we made that decision.”

As to what role Dempsey might play, that was less clear. Arena seemed to indicate that Dempsey could fill a variety of roles, from the top of the midfield in a diamond formation to more of a second striker.

Either way, it’s clear that Dempsey remains a big part of whatever Arena’s plans are to get the USMNT’s bid for the 2018 World Cup back on track. In other words, Sounders fans should probably get used to sharing Dempsey.