For the first time since Clint Dempsey still played in the MLS the two strongest offensive players for the United States National team played against each other this past weekend both teams looking to advance to the round of 16. Donovan on loan from the LA Galaxy to Everton was the stronger of the two players on this day. He finished the game with two assists while Dempsey only managed to create a few half chances. Dempsey has a chance to put one header on goal during the first half, but caught it off the top of his head and it sailed over the crossbar. He struggled to get on the ball and loose his man on multiple occasions and often found himself double teamed with no Fulham player to pass too. The only other chance he really had in the second half was a shot from the top of the 18 yard box that was blocked with relative ease. Dempsey looked isolated and even though fellow striker Andy Johnson looked good on the ball when he had it, he often did not open up space for Dempsey to attack and with Bobby Zamora coming on with only ten minutes remaining had little time to have an effect on the game besides chance down balls around midfield with his fresh legs.
Donovan on the other was a real danger when on the ball. For a player that usually plays better in open space and with the ball being played into him in that space, he was very composed on the ball and delivered two stellar crosses that led to the two goals. He dealt with pressure from the Fulham defenders well and set up the free kick that was played quickly back to him before the second goal. His crosses were pinpoint and even let a rocket fly from just outside the box that Stockdale was not able to hold that resulted in a dangerous rebound, but with no Everton player crashing the net nothing resulted from it. This was the Donovan that Everton was familiar with last in 2010 when he went on loan. In conclusion, this win does not mean that Donovan prevails as the best American player. Everton was the better team on the day and given the free space and lack of closing down on Donovan had compared to the quick collapsing type defending on Dempsey it is not a shock that this was the result. This does however give another reason for Dempsey to play with a chip on his shoulder which he has proved to be a real strength.
For example, what would have happened if when Jozy Altidore crossed the ball to Dempsey in the 91st minute of the Algeria World Cup game, he scored instead? What if instead of the goalie coming out and sliding to block his shot low, Dempsey just chipped it over him and he was the one sliding on his chest into the corner flag? Don’t forget that in that game he scored a goal in the first half that should have counted after a bogus offside call was made as well as striking the upper 90 section of the crossbar/post midway through the second half of that game. What if that goal had counted or if that shot had hit the underside of the bar and went in…
The final chapter of this book is yet to be written.