Gary Lineker on Match of the Day a little while ago posed the question as to whether Clint Dempsey is the Premier League’s best-ever American. The panellists – Alan Shearer and Mark Lawrenson – didn’t come up with an alternative candidate, which is a little harsh on Brian McBride in my opinion, but you can’t fault Dempsey’s desire, improvement or longevity since he swapped New England for London back in January 2007.
For an attacking midfielder who spent much of his early English career languishing out wide, Dempsey’s goal-poaching perhaps exemplifies how his game has developed during his time at Fulham. Rich over at CCN highlighted just how razor-sharp his movement was to score that late winner against Liverpool recently – and it was a similar story this afternoon at Chelsea. At first glance, the equaliser appeared to be the simplest of tap-ins. In fact, it was anything but as the replay shows:
Dempsey breaks forward at pace as Philippe Senderos carries the ball deep into Chelsea territory and, before the Swiss defender heads the ball intelligently out to Bryan Ruiz, he looks set to take a swing at the loose ball just outside the box. While Ruiz is busy making Ashley Cole look very silly, Dempsey makes an intelligent run towards the near post, squeezing almost between David Luiz and John Terry almost unnoticed. The late check in the run takes him between the two defenders and into the perfect position just in front of a stranded Petr Cech to steer home a cool finish. For a non centre-forward, it was an extraordinary piece of goal-poaching.
Credit must go to Senderos whose desire to get his side moving forward gave the move its impetus and Ruiz, who is really beginning to showcase his quality. But without that first class run from Dempsey all the lovely approach play would have counted for nothing.