Sounders FC star Clint Dempsey has turned his attention this week to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which starts June 12. Training camp for the U.S. national team begins Wednesday in Palo Alto, Calif., and Dempsey, the USMNT captain, spoke about the upcoming tournament at an Oberto commercial shoot last week and conference call Monday.
Here are a few highlights (some answers edited for space and clarity):
Q: Do you have any memories from previous World Cups that stand out?
Dempsey: “The one that stands out the most for me is the first goal that I ever got to score in a World Cup — against Ghana (in 2006). That’s what stands out to me because it was a dream come true. When I was a little kid, I used to pray about one day hopefully getting to a World Cup and getting the opportunity to score a goal. Having the opportunity to do that was something I always will look back to as a great moment in my career and my life.”
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Q: You were 23 and 27 years old in the previous World Cups. How does it feel going into this one at 31?
Dempsey: “To be honest with you, it doesn’t feel much different because you have the same mindset going into it. You can’t say it might be your last World Cup, but you never know when you’re going to get the opportunity again. You have that feeling of trying to make the most of this, because you don’t know when it will happen again and you want to do something special in your lifetime.”
Q: When you were coming up through the USMNT, did being captain ever cross your mind?
Dempsey: “It’s not something that I thought about. I thought about just performing well — trying to win every game possible, trying to help the team as much as possible. … Those are the things I thought about throughout my career. It wasn’t about being captain, but it is an honor to be the captain of your country and to be one of the guys to help lead. But I’m lucky. On the team, I think we have a lot of great leaders, a lot of people with experience — look at guys like Tim Howard and Michael Bradley. It’s a good mix of leadership, and I think there’s a lot of quality on our team.”
Q: Is getting to the knockout stages enough for this team?
Dempsey: “The goal is to try and get out of the group, which gives you the opportunity to get to the knockout stages, and in the knockout stages, anything can happen. You want to go as far as you can possibly go. That’s what you focus on. I don’t want to put labels on whether or not this is a success, this is not a success. That’s not what we’re thinking. We’re thinking of going as far as we can possibly go and talk about it afterward.”
Q: What will it be like playing a World Cup in a very important soccer country in Brazil?
Dempsey: “I’m excited about going there. Growing up, the South American style of soccer (is what) I gravitated toward. It would be really cool to go down there and play in that environment that I used to watch on TV. … Getting an opportunity to go down there and play in a World Cup, in an area where I grew up admiring the style of play, will be exciting. And also the environment, being able to experience that will be pretty cool.”
Q: What will it be like knowing the Sounders are playing quite a few games without you?
Dempsey: “That’s just the schedule, and that’s how it has to happen. I’ll be focused on the World Cup, but at the same time I’ll be rooting the Sounders on and wish them the best — rooting for them to get as many points as possible.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers