The USA's Clint Dempsey (pictured) jumps in celebration after scoring against Cuba in a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal on July 18, 2015, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo: Mexsport)
BALTIMORE, Maryland -- Before Saturday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal, United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann advised his team not to waste what might be a rare opportunity on an international stage.
Apparently, Clint Dempsey took it to heart.
The Seattle Sounders star netted his first international hat-trick in a 6-0 win over Cuba and set a U.S. record for the most goals in a single Gold Cup with six.
“For strikers especially, a game like this is a huge opportunity,” Klinsmann said. “You don’t want to kind of miss that chance maybe getting more opportunities than you usually get in the international game. That’s what I told them, don’t waste any chances.”
Dempsey opened his goal account with a fourth-minute header and converted a penalty 60 minutes later, before capping his day with a 78th minute strike off a feed from captain Michael Bradley. He joined Landon Donovan, Brian McBride and Chris Wondolowski as the only Americans to score three goals or more in a Gold Cup match.
Perhaps more importantly for the defending champion, Dempsey helped jumpstart an offense that scored only four goals in Group A after notching 11 goals in group play two years earlier.
“I think good habits carry over,” said Dempsey. “Scoring goals, getting a clean sheet, people getting assists, people getting goals, that confidence definitely, it grows in the team and as the tournament goes on. I think we’re getting stronger as a group. Hopefully, our best ball is yet to come.”
With 11 career Gold Cup goals, Dempsey pulled into a tie with Panama’s Blas Perez for the most among players in this year’s tournament and third-most overall.
It’s still a long way to Donovan’s all-time best mark of 18 career Gold Cup goals, but Klinsmann says Dempsey, 32, is playing like someone who has several productive years left.
“What we like and really enjoy in the last couple weeks is his energy,” Klinsmann finished. “His energy to also come back, to help out, to constantly stay in the game. He’s not been switching off at all. He’s hungry. He’s hungry for goal first of all. And that helps us.”