Mar. 18, 2010 - United Kingdom - Football - Fulham v Juventus UEFA Europa League Third Round Second Leg - Craven Cottage, London, England - 18/3/10..Clint Dempsey celebrates scoring the fourth goal for Fulham.

by Daniel Popko

Clint Dempsey’s dribbler squeaked by Robert Green for the first of five ( US goals in South Africa. In addition, he had a high work rate and was dangerous enough playing for the Stars and Stripes that, on top of the best season of his career with Fulham, Deuce became an in demand commodity on the European transfer market.

While some of the “bandwagon fans” that jumped on for the magical run (have no fear, you’re perfectly welcome to come aboard, everyone has to start somewhere) might not have been able tell you what Dempsey’s club team was or, if they could, where it was located, that wouldn’t stop them from rallying behind one of their heroes. What if he suddenly found himself playing weekly in front of 80,000 screaming fans at the San Siro?

Have no fear, soccer’s “silly season” is here.

American sports fans love the speculation that comes with player movement. Millions tune in for the NFL Draft. The MLB Hot Stove captivates the nation. LeBron’s “Decision” was the third highest-grossing cable program of the year (but it still couldn’t touch Nickelodeon’s “ICarly.” No really). If the average American was looking for a boost to jump into love of the “other” football, what a better time than during the transfer market after the World Cup?

Transfer rumors make LeBron “taking his talents to South Beach” look tame by comparison. Young guns like Mario Balotelli and Neymar might command transfer money totaling upward of $30 million,, but could just as easily end up going nowhere. Cesc Fábregas treats Barcelona and Arsenal like a rose ceremony on “The Bachelorette” (sorry, I have female roommates. I couldn’t avoid the show if I wanted too, and believe me, I want to) and 30+ stars contemplate furthering the over-analyzed label of the MLS as a retirement league.

Men’s National teamers have moved around this transfer window, but nothing has made a big or even a moderate splash in world football. Sure Sacha Kljestan is headed to Anderlecht in Belgium and Jonathan Bornstein planned a move south of the border to Tigres. Even Jay DeMerit and Frankie Simek will be sporting some fresh colors in the Football League next season. Fantastic. I wish them all the best of luck - but there are bigger fish to be fried.

At this point it seems clear that even the endless pockets of Manchester City won’t table a bid that could make Don Garber consider letting American Golden Boy Landon Donovan leave MLS, so the speculative eye turns to the USA’s other dynamic attacking force (sorry Jozy) in Deuce.

The rumour mill stared churning in early July with reported interest from Italian giants Milan. With his former manager at Craven Cottage, Roy Hodgson, moving to Liverpool, that too became a “potential destination.” If the investigative reporting and impeccable sources of Wikipedia are to be believed (they shouldn’t, but then again real journalists tend to be nearly as accurate with transfer speculation), Napoli, Juventus, Bordeaux, Sochaux, Borussia Mönchengladbach were all lining up to have Clint sign on the dotted line.

The Napoli interest seems legitimate enough and Juventus would almost certainly like to avoid this happening again, but those final three clubs scream of pro-American linking just for its own sake. I’m not saying none of those teams wouldn’t benefit from Dempsey’s presence, but all three feature a prominent American on the roster already -- at least until Bradley flees Mönchengladbach for greener pastures. Not to mention, Sochaux, Mönchengladbach and Hannover could be viewed as a step down in club quality from Fulham.

Now while rumours are just as likely to come from real sources as a few supporters enjoying a pint, it’s not as if clubs are interested in Deuce for his place of honor in the eye of the American fan. They're after his composure, skill and the moments of brilliance he can provide in goals like his chip against Juve. Jason Kuenle tackled the idea of American friendly clubs when talking about the odyssey that Ricardo Clark could have had, and perhaps the success of Bradley, Steve Cherundolo and hopefully Charlie Davies will give these clubs a better idea of what American players can do, opening the door for young guns coming up the ranks.

Clubs like Fulham, Everton and arguably Aston Villa already seem to be keen on giving Americans a chance.. Scandinavia is simply bustling with American talent. Plymouth Argyle have even come back to offer trials to Cody Arnoux and Anton Peterlin after enjoying seven sublime appearances from Kenny Cooper. Even Milan would be going back for another piece of the pie after signing Oguchi Onyewu as their fifth choice center back.

While I don’t need to preach to the choir that is reading this right now, these are the small developments that are refreshing to hear. We care about Carlos Bocanegra making an essentially lateral move in Ligue 1 and Eddie Johnson and Freddy Adu’s double-loan to Greece, but Donovan spending 10 weeks in the blue jersey of Everton or Deuce possibly moving to a top European club grabs attention. It has the ability to make mainstream headlines, even in the American sports media.

At this point in soccer’s development in this country, any positive visibility is a good thing. It may not immediately put people in the seats for an FC Dallas-Kansas City Wizards game, but American players playing Champions League soccer at the top clubs in the sport makes the game more visible to the average viewer.

If you turn on Fox Soccer, you’re much more likely to see a match with AC Milan or Liverpool than Mönchengladbach or Sochaux. Having a player like Dempsey on the pitch may be enough to keep those fringe fans watching. Even if it’s not directly drawing them into the domestic game, it could be enough to get them interested in the sport itself beyond the national team, which itself is a start.

If Joe Average keeps coming back for more footy and realizes that Dempsey once plied his trade in the jersey of the New England Revolution or Tim Howard manned the cage for the MetroStars, maybe they’ll look around locally for their next fix and a view of the talent of tomorrow. Everyone’s journey to football fandom has to start somewhere.

Who knows, it may even be getting to see Maurice Edu make a clattering tackle on Sacha Kljestan in the Champions League group stage. That’s something almost every American fan can get behind.

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