Dempsey’s Gold Cup heroics lead to U.S. soccer history
USA’s Clint Dempsey (jumping) celebrates after scoring against Costa Rica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals on July 22, 2017, in Arlington, Texas, USA. (Photo: AFP Services)

ARLINGTON, Texas – For Clint Dempsey, the script couldn’t have been written any better.

Back in his home state of Texas, the Seattle Sounders FC attacker entered as a second-half substitute in a tense scoreless CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal against Costa Rica.

After setting up Jozy Altidore’s goal, Dempsey scored 10 minutes later on a free kick -- much to the delight of the 45,516 in attendance at AT&T Stadium -- to seal a 2-0 victory.  It was the 57th goal of his career, tying the United States’ all-time record set by Landon Donovan.

“It was bigger than me.  It was something that was already written it seems like,” Dempsey said.  “I couldn’t picture a better scenario coming off the bench and getting a goal and assist, helping the team get to the final.  That’s a dream come true.”

Dempsey stepped onto the field in the 66th minute and changed the game four minutes later.  The 34-year-old turned with the ball at midfield and took two touches before springing Altidore, who beat Costa Rica goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton.

“Coming in the game I didn’t want to play negative, I wanted to go forward,” remarked Dempsey.  “I just took the ball behind my leg, got past that guy, took another touch, got myself a little bit of space running at the backline, caused them to have to move a bit.  Jozy made a good run.  I tried to give him a good weighted ball, give him an opportunity to put a shot on frame and he did the rest.”

And then came the historic moment as Dempsey, who purchased 27 tickets for family and friends from Nacogdoches, netted with eight minutes remaining in clever fashion.

“I saw the keeper was cheating a little bit the other way.  Maybe he saw the last game against Honduras where I kind of went that way,” Dempsey finished.  “The wall maybe still could have gone a little more to their left.  I hit it good.  I hit it around the wall.  It was tight.  The guy almost deflected it.  If you look at it in slow motion, he almost got a foot to it.  It took a good skip off the surface.  I think that helped out.”

Dempsey is now in sole possession of second place on the all-time Gold Cup scoring list with 13 goals, five behind Donovan.