Clint Dempsey warns England USA's 'Golden Generation' are its best yet

Clint Dempsey warns England the USA’s ‘Golden Generation’ are its best yet, claims his nation are stronger ‘man for man’ than Wales… and why Jude Bellingham is Group B’s danger

  • England and USA face off in the World Cup Friday for the first time since 2010 
  • Clint Dempsey’s memorable goals squeezed past Rob Green in the 2010 draw 
  • But Dempsey warns this time around the US’s has a ‘Golden Generation’ feel to it
  • He names Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham as England players to watch out for 
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

Clint Dempsey scored against England at the 2010 World Cup and will be on broadcasting duty in Qatar for the rematch on Friday. 

Ahead of the big game, he chatted to his former Fulham team-mate Danny Murphy about American soccer, the danger men for Gareth Southgate and his own emotional reunion with former England goalkeeper Robert Green.

Clint Dempsey was the best trainer I ever played with. He was first, Jamie Carragher second and Robbie Keane third. That incredible drive took him from rural Texas to the Premier League and the World Cup. Even if he had played well, he’d be upset unless he’d directly impacted a game with a goal or assist. 

It was an elite attitude that worked to his advantage against England at the 2010 World Cup, when his unlikely pot shot famously squeezed past the hands of goalkeeper Rob Green to earn USA a memorable 1-1 draw in Rustenburg. 

The goal will be shown on repeat before the two countries meet again in Qatar this week. Like me, Clint will be covering the tournament for TV and, during our interview, it was clear memories of the last encounter are still strong. 

Clint Dempsey’s 25-yard goal against England at the 2010 World Cup snatched a point for USA

Dempsey’s shot trickled over the goal line after England goalkeeper Rob Green’s fumble 

The goalkeeper could only look back at his goal in horror as the ball trickled between his posts

Green sat face down on the Rustenburg pitch as Dempsey celebrated with his teammates 

‘There was a lot of buzz when the draw came out and playing and living in England, all I heard was that America would be an easy team to play against,’ he says. ‘It added to the chip on my shoulder. Being an American, you always felt you had to be better than a European player just to get into the team. 

‘There was plenty of trash talk, even if it wasn’t all seriously meant. Mike Kelly [Roy Hodgson’s assistant at Fulham] was always winding me up to get me going and you boys would have to tell me to try to relax. I definitely felt motivated and that I had a point to prove against England.

‘Steven Gerrard scored first and then put me on the ground with a tackle. I spent the whole rest of the match wanting to get him back and finally managed to turn past him before having my shot at Robert Green. I consider it a lucky goal. The Jabulani ball used at that World Cup moved a bit more than usual. 

‘It’s funny because my dad played American football so couldn’t give me too much advice but one thing he always said was: “If you don’t shoot, you can’t score”.’ 

Green was dropped by Fabio Capello afterwards and, though he rebuilt his career at club level, the blunder was never forgotten. He recently travelled to the CBS studios in America to discuss the historic moment with Clint. 

Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard gave the Three Lions the perfect start to the contest

The howler signalled the end of Green’s campaign as he was replaced by David James (above)

‘It was emotional and I told him that I felt my late sister had played a part in me scoring,’ says Dempsey. ‘She died suddenly at 16 but we’d always said as kids that we’d have a sign to show we were still watching over each other, and hers was to help me get a goal.’ 

Comparisons between the England and USA teams in 2010 and now are fascinating. Arguably, England had better individual players then in John Terry, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney, but are collectively better under manager Gareth Southgate. 

America had a couple of stand-outs in South Africa like Clint and Landon Donovan but even they weren’t at Europe’s top clubs, unlike the 2022 squad, which has players from Chelsea, AC Milan, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund. 

‘We had big players on smaller teams, now you have Americans at big teams but they are not the main pieces,’ says Dempsey. ‘The best ones are young, 24 or under. Christian Pulisic [Chelsea], Weston McKennie [Juventus], Brenden Aaronson [Leeds], Tyler Adams [Leeds], Gio Reyna [Dortmund], Sergino Dest [AC Milan] and Yunus Musah [Valencia]. 

England had better individuals in 2010 but they are collectively better under Gareth Southgate

‘There is a Golden Generation feel to it. They have a lot of potential but there is more youth than experience. The US usually plays 4-3-3 and it suits us to face better teams who we can counter-attack. If opponents sit back, it’s more difficult to break them down, so England may suit us more than the game against Wales. 

‘Our strongest area is midfield. Adams, McKennie and Musah can really get around. They can stamp out fires — and get forward. The biggest question-marks are who is going to be our goalie, main centre-forward and centre-back partner for Walker Zimmerman.’ 

I’ve been impressed watching Aaronson and Adams at Leeds. Man for man, the American team look stronger to me than Wales, though Dempsey warns: ‘We can’t afford to lose that first one otherwise it is going to be a mountain to climb.’ 

He lives in North Carolina these days but still retains his Texas accent. He divides time between sports punditry, where the CBS roster includes Jamie Carragher and Micah Richards, fishing and hunting — and raising five kids, with a sixth on the way. 

The former Fulham man claimed there is a ‘Golden Generation’ feel to Gregg Berhalter’s team 

The USA boasts a strong midfield with the likes of Tyler Adams (4) and Weston McKennie (8)

Dempsey also claimed that the US squad is stronger ‘man-for-man’ than Wales

With America co-hosting the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico, he is confident the growth of ‘soccer’ will continue. Opportunities are far better than when he grew up and his parents had to drive three hours to Houston or Dallas for him to get a proper game. 

‘That battle with basketball, baseball and American football will always be there but it’s getting better,’ he says. ‘The average American will tune into World Cup matches and we’ll have fans in Qatar as well. You are starting to see less pay to play. A lot of MLS academies foot the bill for kids to play, giving everybody an opportunity if you’re good enough to get into teams. That is a big help. I wouldn’t have made it if my parents hadn’t used my college fund hoping it would work out. 

Danny Murphy and Dempsey played together at Fulham (pictured in 2012)

‘Qualifying for this World Cup after missing out on Russia will boost interest. The 2026 World Cup will mean more money going into development of the game.’ 

I must admit I was surprised to see Clint end up in the media. He didn’t give much indication when we were team-mates but I’ve seen clips and he’s having fun, particularly with Carra and Micah.

Like me, he enjoys risk-takers on the pitch. Too many players play the safe pass and trot back into the dressing room happy that they’ve got a 90 per cent completion rate. Clint would take a chance. I remember one match screaming at him not to shoot and he put one in the top corner from 30 yards. 

He’s clearly excited about what the current American youngsters can do in the future, though there is a debate whether this is one tournament too soon. On the England side, there are two players Dempsey would be happy to see not on the teamsheet. 

‘Harry Kane stands out for me as a big player with the goals he gets. The other one is Jude Bellingham,’ he says. ‘He reminds me of the midfielders of old, Stevie G and Lampard, in being box to box. He’s special. 

Youngster Jude Bellingham is a player Dempsey would be happy to see not on the teamsheet

‘On the other hand, it does seem to have been a while since England have had a world-class goalie. Jordan Pickford has done fine but given the investment you have in England, it’s surprising you don’t have a keeper at a Champions League club. 

‘I’m hoping England and USA both qualify, just like in 2010. I also hope it’s an omen that England have never beaten us at a World Cup. 

‘For the tournament itself, Brazil and Argentina are my tips. Brazil swept through qualifying and Argentina won the last Copa America. Someone told me that the World Cup final could be Lionel Messi’s 1,000th game. What a story that would be.’

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