It was the summer of 2014, and I was running late. I had promised my buddy Cockmon that I would pick up a case of Budweiser to drink while we watched the United States Men’s National Team in their opening match of the group stage against Ghana.
I was determined to get my friends interested in the World Cup because I’d fallen in love with it after watching Landon Donovan score the game-winning goal against Algeria to win their group in 2010 in South Africa.
My dad and I jumped up and down screaming, “Holy crap!” for about 15 minutes before we realized that this might have been the first time we had even watched soccer before. We also made plans to see Landon Donovan for the LA Galaxy before he moved onto Europe.
The United States’ group opener against Ghana in 2014 was a huge match. They had been put in the “Group of Death” that included Ghana, Portugal, and Germany, too. Ghana had also eliminated the US out of the past two World Cups, and new coach Jürgen Klinsmann had left Landon Donovan off the 2014 squad. It was up to Clint Dempsey to be the new captain and take over the leadership mantle from the best player America had ever produced.
I was nervous whether or not Dempsey could fill Donovan’s shoes and was giving Cockmon a rundown on the match as we were sprinting up the stairs to his game room to try and crack open our first Bud before kickoff. We popped our first top and couldn’t even sit down before we looked at one another and screamed in excitement, “GOAAAALLLLL!!!!!”
At that moment, I knew that the US would be okay with Dempsey guiding the ship. Dempsey had etched a permanent spot in my heart and gained a few more new fans that day, too.
This week, he announced his retirement at age 35 from the United States Men’s national team and the Seattle Sounders of the MLS. He scored 57 goals for the national team, which is tied with Landon Donovan for the all-time lead. He helped me get over the loss of Landon Donovan and scored one of the most memorable United States World Cup goals ever.
Congratulations on a fantastic club and country career, but I’m sad to see him go. I can’t wait to see who will fill the shoes that he’s left behind.