Jurgen Klinsmann says he is encouraged by Clint Dempsey's status despite his lack of goals. (Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
The last seven months haven't been the finest of Clint Dempsey's career.
Following his stunning move from Tottenham to Seattle in August 2013, Dempsey has struggled for both club and country, tallying just two goals in all competitions for the Seattle Sounders, Fulham (on loan) and the U.S. men's national team. With the World Cup approaching, that lack of productivity has become more worrisome for U.S. fans, with Dempsey's play a vital key to success this summer.
Jurgen Klinsmann sees his captain, who turned 31 this week, turning a corner, though. Despite a lackluster showing against Ukraine, Dempsey's play has Klinsmann feeling upbeat with the countdown to Brazil continuing. In comments to U.S. Soccer, Klinsmann claims that Dempsey's struggles are behind him and that he is on the right track.
"Clint is on the right path," Klinsmann said. "Clint is looking a lot sharper, a lot better than at the end of last year. He struggled with injuries, the whole transition back from Europe into MLS, a different type of a game, turf field in Seattle, all those things you can see now are left behind.
"He prepared very professionally these two [months on loan] at Fulham. It didn't work out on the field the way everybody hoped, because the team is at a different stage right now than it was maybe two, three years ago when he was at Fulham. But for him personally it was very, very important these two months at Fulham, getting back into a rhythm, getting back into a shape. He looks a lot, lot better than at the end of the last year. So we are very positive on Clint's path, and it makes us feel a lot better towards the World Cup."
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Dempsey made his MLS season debut off the bench in Seattle's 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City last Saturday, and he factored heavily into the scoring. Minutes after his flick to Obafemi Martins led to a disallowed goal (Martins was offside), Dempsey headed Sean Okoli's cross off the crossbar and followed up with a scissor kick that nudged the ball into Chad Barrett's path for the decisive goal against the reigning MLS Cup champion.
All eyes will be on Dempsey at CenturyLink Field again this Saturday, with Seattle hosting Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe and new-look Toronto FC in a nationally televised bout between big-spending foes. Bradley has been cleared to play, according to TFC's official website, after a minor foot injury forced him to withdraw from last week's friendly against Ukraine. Surely, Klinsmann, who said he will be at Wednesday night's CONCACAF Champions League clash between the LA Galaxy and Club Tijuana, will cast a watchful eye as two of his most indispensable players continue to build toward Brazil.
SI Now: Grant Wahl on Team USA's struggling stars
On Wednesday's SI Now, Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl talks about the recent poor play of Team USA star players Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey and if it will negatively impact the team at the World Cup.