Godfrey's Daily Rant
Clint Dempsey Should Not Be Taking PKs for the U.S.
The United States beat Mexico. The Dos a Cero tradition is intact. The Yanks are going to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. But let's not lose sight of the American dilemma when it comes to penalty kicks.
BY John Godfrey PostedIMAGINE FOR A SECOND that Eddie Johnson did not soar above the Mexico defense in the 49th minute on Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio, and that he did not put the United States ahead of El Tri with his powerful header. And pretend, if you will, that Mix Diskerud did not make a deft, space-creating move followed by a beautiful cross to set up Landon Donovan for the second American goal of the night in the 78th minute. In other words, envision a scenario where Clint Dempsey’s stoppage-time penalty kick meant something more than just a dagger-twist into the heart of the Mexican soccer federation. As you may recall, he missed. Badly. Take another look. If the score wasn't already 2-0, would we be joking about it now? Would MLSsoccer.com be asking its audience if Dempsey missed the penalty on purpose? Would cheeky American enthusiasts be praising Dempsey for honoring the Dos a Cero history at Crew Stadium? Or would we instead be asking a very different question, namely: Why in the world is Clint Dempsey taking penalty kicks for the United States national team? Landon Donovan has made 28 of 33 penalties in Major League Soccer, and he is 5 for 5 in high-pressure MLS playoff situations. I looked for Donovan's PK record with the U.S. national team, but could not find anything. I have seen him score plenty, however. You probably have too. History tells us that Donovan is one of the best penalty takers in U.S. history. YouTube shows us that Dempsey is not even particularly good. You just saw Dempsey's miss against Mexico. He didn’t even put the ball on frame. It was brutal. Dempsey didn't look happy afterward, and neither did Jurgen Klinsmann. Four nights earlier, Dempsey claimed the penalty for his own against Costa Rica in the 43rd minute, when the U.S. was trailing 2-0. He stepped up. He swung his right foot at the ball from 12 yards out. And he hit it straight at Ticos goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Fortunately for Deuce, the ball caromed into the back of the net for a goal, but there is no disputing that it was a poor penalty. I don't have Dempsey's career penalty kick statistics on hand—if you do, please share them in the Comments below—but iffy PKs are less the exception than the rule. Last season at Tottenham Dempsey took this penalty against Norwich City. Low. Hard. Far too close to the keeper. Danny Murphy was Fulham's designated penalty taker during the bulk of Dempsey’s time with the club. But after Murphy left the Cottagers, Dempsey got his shot(s). And he didn't exactly cover himself in glory. Here’s Dempsey’s PK against Chelsea on February 14, 2011. It's too close to Peter Cech, who saves easily. Here’s another one against Charlton Athletic from January 2012 FA Cup match. This one goes in, yes, but look at the placement. Straight at the keeper, who dives out of the way of the ball. It’s hardly what I would call a surgical strike. Dempsey is perfectly capable of beautiful penalty kicks as well, as he showed in the friendly against Belgium earlier this year. In this one, Simon Mignolet guessed right and still couldn't stop the well-placed shot. But it seems to me that there are too few strikes like this one, and too many that either sneak in or are saved. It’s entirely possible that Dempsey is the best penalty taker on the planet during training. Maybe he has never once missed when the cameras are off and the crowd isn't there and he’s facing down Tim Howard or Brad Guzan or Marcus Hahnemann. Don’t know. Don’t care. Dempsey's PKs are, more often than not, sketchy affairs. Donovan, on the other hand, is a sniper from 12 yards out. I'm not a huge fan of Donovan's little pre-penalty ritual, where he squats down like Yadier Molina and....does something. But if it results in PKs like this one... ...or this one... ...or this one... ...I don't care what he does before, during, or after. Clint Dempsey has the armband, and he deserves it. He is a tremendous soccer player, and one of my all-time favorites. I love Dempsey's drive, ambition, audacity, snarl, technique, and demeanor. He's No. 2 in our ASN 100, and that ranking is warranted. I just don't think he should ever take another penalty kick for the United States men's soccer team as long as Donovan is around. Agree or disagree? Share your penalty kick perspective below, and also vote on our PK poll on the bottom left of our homepage. John Godfrey is the founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.
September 12, 2013
September 12, 2013