Regardless of role, Dempsey excels for U.S.
Clint Dempsey (#28) scored his 13th career CONCACAF Gold Cup goal in the semifinal win over Costa Rica on July 22, 2017, in Arlington, Texas, USA. (Photo: AFP Services)

ARLINGTON, Texas – Bruce Arena had a conversation with Clint Dempsey on the eve of the United States’ CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal and explained what he envisioned the veteran’s role to be against Costa Rica.

“Bruce said he thought it was going to be a tight game and he could bring me on late to open [things] up. He was right in what he said,” Dempsey said.  “It was always going to be a little bit difficult trying to go 90 minutes three days after playing 90 minutes at 34 (years-old).  I was happy with the decision and glad to come on and make an impact.”

Arena said after Dempsey played 90 minutes in a 2-0 win over El Salvador on Wednesday in Philadelphia, he would bring on the Seattle Sounders FC star at some point between the 60th and 70th minutes Saturday.

It turned out Dempsey came on in the 66th minute for Paul Arriola, the first of Arena’s three changes.

“At that point in the game, both teams were a little tired and certainly Costa Rica spent a lot of energy chasing the ball on the evening,” said Arena.  “We just needed a little more technical ability in the last third of the field, the passing, the finishing and certainly that’s what Clint offers.”

Dempsey has been a key member of the national team since his debut in 2004, but heart issues sidelined him for several months last year.  As a result, his role is starting to evolve.

“He understands where he is in his career,” Arena said. “He understands there’s going to be games he starts and games he plays the role he played tonight.  Things can change in other directions, but that’s the plan right now.”

On Saturday, it was a plan that worked perfectly with Dempsey assisting on Jozy Altidore’s winner and scoring an insurance goal of his own on a free kick in a 10-minute span in the 2-0 victory.