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May 12, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Dempsey turns focus to World Cup: ‘At the same time, I’ll be rooting the Sounders on.’

A few local spoke with Sounders FC’s Clint Dempsey today as he shifts his focus to the U.S. national team and the World Cup. The USMNT captain was one of 30 players selected to the preliminary World Cup roster Monday, with training set to start Wednesday at Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.

Here is a transcript:

*     *     *

(Do you think it’s significant having more American World Cup players coming from MLS compared to last cycle?) “I don’t really look at things like that. I think in the two World Cup I’ve participated in, there are players in Europe and there are players in MLS. In terms of what those numbers break down to, I can’t really say that I look at them. I haven’t really thought about it in that way.”

(Is there a benefit to playing withdrawn forward both with the Sounders and USMNT, not having to change positions?) “I’ve played different positions during my career. When I played with club, sometimes it was the same as when I played for country. Sometimes it was different. Ideally, I think it helps to be playing the same position for both, but at the same time, whatever is best for the team and being able to help the team do well is the most important thing, and you adjust according to that.”

(You’ve mentioned not feeling completely satisfied with what you and the team have done at the World Cup. How do you view the last one and what more do you want to accomplish?) “The last World Cup was … a success in terms of winning our group. I don’t think a lot of people would have picked us to have done that. We got to the knockout stages and would have liked to have gone on a little bit of a run, but we got knocked out in that first game. It would be nice to get the opportunity to get to the knockout stages again and go a little further.”

(Is getting the knockout stages is enough for this team?) “The goal is to try and get out of the group, which gives you the opportunity to get to the knockout stages, and in the knockout stages, anything can happen. You want to go as far as you can possibly go. That’s what you focus on. I don’t want to put labels on whether or not this is a success, this is not a success. That’s not what we’re thinking. We’re thinking of going as far as we can possibly go and talk about it afterward.”

(What will it be like playing a World Cup in a very important soccer country in Brazil?) “I’m excited about going there. Growing up, the South American-style of soccer (is what) I gravitated towards. It would be really cool to go down there and play in that environment that I used to watch on TV. I never got the opportunity to play in Copa America, so getting an opportunity to go down there and play in a World Cup, in an area where I grew up admiring the style of play, will be exciting. And also the environment: being able to experience that will be pretty cool.”

(It seems everyone on the outside is talking about the difficulty of the group and travel. How much do you look at that?) “Different groups are going to deal with different travel. It comes along with it. Everybody in our group is going to have to deal with the same thing. We’ve prepared accordingly in terms of our sending off games, the travel and the turnarounds — also looking back to last summer when we had the three World Cup qualifying games with quick turnarounds and being able to adjust. I think we prepared well, but it will be something that we have to deal with and find a way to recover as quickly as you can to play at the highest level possible.”

(Do you think the team benefited from the January trip to Brazil and what can you get out of that?) “I didn’t get the opportunity to go to that training camp, but it only helps you to get familiar with the area, the surroundings and the environment. I think it contributed to us having success in the last World Cup when we went to the Confederations Cup in South Africa. So getting familiar with the area only helps you.”

(Do you have any specific memories from previous World Cups that stand out?) “The one that stands out the most for me is the first goal that I ever got to score in a World Cup — against Ghana. That’s what stands out to me because it was a dream come true. When I was a little kid, I used to pray about one day hopefully getting to a World Cup and getting the opportunity to score a goal. Having the opportunity to do that was something I always will look back to as a great moment in my career and my life.”

(Do you view that as the moment that propelled you forward in your career, both club and country?) “It only raises your profile when you score on the world stage and I think that’s what allowed me to … be able to get that move to go over to Europe. For me, it was more than just being known on a global scale. For me, it was accomplishing the biggest goal that was possible when I was a kid, just to be able to play in a World Cup and to score and have the opportunity to do that was such an achievement for me personally. It gave me that peace moving forward. There were other things that I was striving for, but that was the moment where I could get that little bit of peace for all the sacrifices I made.”

(What will it be like having three Sounders a part of this camp?) “Obviously it’s going to be a big (hole) to fill in terms of the players in your starting 11. But there’s a lot of depth on the team with the Sounders. I’m sure that they will be able to do fine if us three are absent. It’s about getting back on the right track after a poor performance.”

(Do you view this as your final World Cup?) “I look at every World Cup as if it could be your last. That’s how I’ve always approached every one that I’ve ever been a part of. You never know when you’re going to get that opportunity again to be there. It’s such a difficult process to qualify for a World Cup and a lot of things go into it. You have to maintain consistent form over a long period of time to be able to be on that team come the final selection. I just want to go as far as I can in the World Cup – it’s the same goal as every World Cup – and do the best that we can do as a team and the best that I can do individually. You just want to make the most of those moments, those occasions, those opportunities.”

(When you were in England you don’t have to worry about a schedule conflict, but what will it be like knowing the Sounders are playing quite a few games without you guys?) “It’s different that it will be on hold, but I experienced that during the first World Cup I had the opportunity to play in. That’s just the schedule and that’s how it has to happen. I’ll be focused on the World Cup, but at the same time I’ll be rooting the Sounders on and wish them the best — rooting for them to get as many points as possible.”

(Do you have any early memories of the World Cup and coming to understand how big of a tournament it is?) “I remember there was a place (we watched) the 1986 World Cup when it was in Mexico, the year Argentina won and I remember watching Diego Maradona play and some of the other countries — seeing the passion, seeing the fans and everything like that and seeing those games. That was pretty special for me because I really loved the game, but here I am in Nacogdoches, Texas, where not many people are passionate about the sport as I am, and then I’m looking on TV and seeing people from all over, from all these different countries that have the same passion that I do and they’re willing their team on. That’s when I fell in love with it and wanted to one day be on that stage and represent my country. I mean what could be more special than that? That’s probably one of my earliest memories.”

(Everyone knows your standing with the national team these days, but do you still get that level of excitement when you get the call?) “Anytime you can represent your country it’s always an honor and a privilege. You want to make the most of it because you want to keep having that feeling of being called in. The thing is, when you get selected into these camps, also you have to remember, yeah, I’m selected, but there’s also going to be some more cuts after the final game, so it’s excitement but also you’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to make the most of these training sessions, of these games, to prepare so that you can make it to the roster that’s going to Brazil. Also, you want to fight for that starting 11 spot, so you can be on the field and can be playing in those games. Those are some of the things that are going through your mind.”

| More in Sounders FC, Stop and chats

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