Just a couple days after tamping down the likelihood that Clint Dempsey would participate in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, United States men’s national team coach Bruce Arena left the door wide open for a quick return.
During a Facebook Live question-and-answer session, Arena seemed to indicate that Dempsey’s performances in the next couple games could determine whether or not the veteran is called in for the March 24 and 28 matches.
“With Clint we need to be cautious with our approach,” Arena said. “It was great seeing him play against Houston, we’ll be following him again this weekend and really see where he’s at physically, if he’s getting a little bit sharper, if he’s increasing his workload on the field.”
“We know he’s a very good player and has a great history with a national team. But we want to be smart with Clint and make sure he’s ready to play international soccer. The next two weekends are going to be very important. We’ll follow him closely, I’m happy to see he’s back on the field and i’m confident he’ll be part of the national team sometime in 2017.”
Arena is notably giving himself a lot of room for wiggle and perhaps is just saying the things that he thinks fans want to hear. But he also seems to be changing his tune, and maybe he received some data between Monday and Wednesday that suggested Dempsey was closer to fully fit than he had previously believed.
There are also the very real stakes at play in these qualifiers. That alone seems to be why MLSsoccer.com’s Mathhew Doyle thinks Dempsey almost has to be included, even if he won’t to start both matches.
The good news is that even if Dempsey gets called in, the only Sounders match he’d miss is the friendly against Club Necaxa. The bad news is that Dempsey could probably use all the rest he can get. Guess we’ll just have to wait to find out.