Clint Dempsey is a regular on the U.S. national team

Clint Dempsey is a regular on the U.S. national team

Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson reflects on his career and his time on the field

D.C. United’s team captain and United States men’s national team star Clint Dempsey returns to the team’s bench as he takes his place in the XI.

By John Canzano

John Canzano/The Star-Ledger

Clint Dempsey’s name is rarely mentioned among the 20 or so players on the United States national team. He’s not considered a player; he’s not thought of as a person. And yet he’s made the squad at least four times, and he could conceivably make the squad forever.

There was that time in the World Cup in 2010, though he didn’t play. There was the time he came off the bench to put in a goal against Portugal in the Gold Cup quarterfinals in 2013. Then-coach Jürgen Klinsmann named him to the USMNT shortly after the 2014 World Cup, where he went through some of his greatest moments. And perhaps most memorably, there was his game-winning goal against Trinidad and Tobago in the 2014 World Cup third-place playoff to help the U.S. beat Peru 2-1 in the round of 16.

But that was after the World Cup, and he’s been a U.S. national team regular at least since that day in January 2014. He’s been there since it all began in December 2003. “It’s been a long journey,” he told me recently.

There’s even a time, he added, when he was a little down that he didn’t play for an entire season: “I had a couple of games that I felt like I didn’t play really well. I had a rough couple of games, and I took the next step in my career.”

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