Having played with Clint Dempsey for three seasons, New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis knows all about the Texan’s talent. During his time with the Revs, Dempsey amassed 25 goals and 14 assists while helping the team reach the MLS Cup twice. While the statistics are impressive, it was his attitude and work rate that really sold Reis on Dempsey’s potential.
“Every since he was a rookie here, he had a desire to get better every day,” Reis explained. ”With that desire, you get an incredible work rate. He rarely takes days off. If you put all that together you get a special player.”
While in MLS, Dempsey worked hard to improve his game so that he would be prepared to make the move to the next level. Dempsey, already a skilled player, experienced growth by identifying and eradicating weaknesses under the tutelage of Stevie Nicol and his coaching staff.
“Year-in-year-out, he put the work in every day,” Reis noted. “He strived to be the best at everything whether it was finishing, whether it was position turns, whether it was anything. He worked to be the best at all that. So, every practice he got better, every year he got better.”
In 2007, Dempsey completed a move to the English Premier League (EPL). The US international thrived in England with successful stints with Fulham FC and the Tottenham Hotspurs. The 2011-12 season was his most notable as his 12 goals helped him earn fourth place in the Premiership’s Player of the Year voting.
Dempsey’s success in the EPL made it a surprise that the 30 year-old was going to return to MLS. The US captain is in the prime of his career and is hoping to appear in his third World Cup in 2014. After the initial shock wears off, it’s clear that the transaction says a lot about the development of MLS.
“I’m happy for the way that the league is going,” Reis said. “The fact that we’ve got an American player as the highest paid player in our league sends a great message. Our league has always been about developing the American player.”
While his time in Europe has been cut short, people shouldn’t underestimate Dempsey’s contributions in improving Europe’s perception of American players.
“We have obviously opened up a lot of doors in Europe and we’ve opened up a lot of eyes in the soccer world to show that the American player is a quality player,” Reis remarked. “We hope that this has paved the way for the younger generation to have successful careers and to have options and possibilities.”
Although there are now more opportunities for American players to relocate, discretion is needed to ensure that the move is right. Reis revealed that he received some interest aboard during his career but never found anything that was practical. As the team elder, Reis encourages his teammates to explore all facets of a deal before accepting it.
“It’s a different situation for each player,” Reis advised. “They got to take a look at what makes the most sense for them. If the possibility is there to go to Europe and you feel that you are capable and ready to do it then go try it. It’s different for each individual and position-wise it’s different for each position.”
While Dempsey’s move is beneficial for the league and young American players, the Seattle Sounders will likely profit the most. The Sounders, currently seventh in the west, have now become contenders for a playoff position. Although Reis would’ve welcomed back his former teammate, he’s confident in the Revs’ ability to produce a new Clint Dempsey.
“He’s such a great player that we’re disappointed that he’s not with us but that’s the way it is,” Reis commented. “We’re developing our own players and our own culture here. We’re going to have another Clint Dempsey coming out of our program soon.”
(image courtesy of Kari Heistad)