USA’s Dempsey energized by CONCACAF Cup challenge

The USA's Clint Dempsey (pictured) will look to score his first-ever goal against Mexico, when the rivals meet in the CONCACAF Cup on October 10, 2015, in Pasadena, California. (Photo: Mexsport)

IRVINE, California – There’s nothing like a big game to get Clint Dempsey’s competitive juices flowing.

And the United States international knows more than a little something about competing at the highest level.

After all, he has played in 50 FIFA tournament-related games, appearing in three World Cups (10 games, 4 goals), three World Cup qualifying cycles (34 games, 13 goals), a Confederations Cup (5 games, 3 goals) and a U-20 World Cup (1 game, 0 goals).

Dempsey has also performed in four CONCACAF Gold Cups, scoring 12 goals in 21 matches. This past July, he won the tournament’s Golden Boot award with seven goals, finding the back of the net in four of the USA’s six outings.

So when the 32-year-old expresses enthusiasm for Saturday’s CONCACAF Cup showdown against Mexico, you have to appreciate his sentiments.

“This is another opportunity to play in a major competition,” Dempsey said. “Being able to do well in a big game like this and be able to represent CONCACAF in the Confederations Cup is an honor. CONCACAF is getting better and better, and I think you can see that in the last World Cup.”

Both of the CONCACAF powers reached the round of 16 at Brazil 2014, while Costa Rica advanced to the quarterfinals before falling on penalty kicks to the Netherlands.

Another meeting with the rival Mexicans, before what has already been announced as a sold-out crowd at the iconic Rose Bowl, adds even more intrigue to the event.

“The atmosphere and just the history,” commented Dempsey, who has been part of nine previous Mexico-USA confrontations, but has never scored in one of those games. “You always want to represent well. It’s always a big game. You have to win it. This is game is important because they made a trophy to hold up at the end of it, but also to be able to book your tickets to the Confederations Cup, which is a big tournament. The history is there. There’s always been tough games between us and them.”

At the end of the day, though, Mexico and the U.S. could meet on a secluded field with nobody watching and it would still mean something significant to Dempsey.

“It’s just that competitive rivalry, being so close in proximity to Mexico,” the Seattle Sounders star finished. “It’s just exciting to have big games like that and want to win so bad. I think both countries want to be able to flex their muscles and have bragging rights.”

One of the sides will have just that – and a trip to Russia 2017 – after another chapter of this great sporting conflict is penned Saturday night.