March 23, 2010

American Scores One of Fulham's Greatest Goals: New York Times sportswriter Rob Hughes waxes poetic on Clint Dempsey's magical goal for Fulham against Juventus this week: "The strike was a work of art, delivered with apparent nonchalance. We have seen such shooting from Eric Cantona, and very few others. ... The goal will be remembered by Fulham folk as long as they go to matches. Fulham has never, in 131 years of its own history, had a more monumental milestone."

posted by rcade to soccer at 09:13 AM - 32 comments

Perhaps because it was Dempsey, and because he chose to be the Quiet American, describing it as a lucky break, there has been relatively little recognition.

Or perhaps because it was a cross. Have a watch of it. Tell me he meant that and that he wasn't trying to pick out Zamora on the back post and I'll call you liar.

I'm delighted for Fulham - and for Dempsey - but please; that was no Cantona moment.

posted by JJ at 09:08 AM on March 23, 2010

First we're no good because we can't play the Beautiful Game, now we have to call our shots? Can't we catch a break in this poor, down-trodden underdog of a country?

While I tend to agree with you, the one piece of counter evidence is: would you really be trying to pick out Zamorra if you wanted the ball in the net?

posted by yerfatma at 09:14 AM on March 23, 2010

In fact, it's a compliment to Dempsey to point out that it was a cross - if it was a shot of that nature at that stage in the game, he should never play for the club again. It's like that scorpion kick from the Colombian keeper at Wembley - very amusing and talented, but if I'd been in charge of the team I'd never have picked him again.

posted by JJ at 10:01 AM on March 23, 2010

Call me a liar.

posted by rcade at 10:16 AM on March 23, 2010

If you're saying he meant it, I'm saying I don't believe you really think that (but only because I know you're not stupid).

posted by JJ at 10:26 AM on March 23, 2010

You overestimate me, then. I think he meant it. His comment says as much: "Nine times out of 10, a shot like that would not have made it. Sometimes, you've got to go for it, and luckily it worked tonight." He doesn't even look at Zamora before taking the shot.

posted by rcade at 10:33 AM on March 23, 2010

Exactly - he doesn't look up. He can guess that Bobby's lumbering in on the far post (and hope that for once he isn't already offside), but he can't know the keeper's out of position. If he meant that, he's an order of magnitude better than he's ever shown himself to be in the past.

As for his comment - what are you going to say three months before the World Cup? "Nah, it was a really bad cross that the keeper should have claimed easily - lucky for me he was off his line and I fluked it into the top corner."

posted by JJ at 11:10 AM on March 23, 2010

He doesn't need to look at the keeper to know he's leaving the top far corner exposed. Soccer players try difficult shots all the time -- how many times do you see somebody sky one into the bleachers and wonder what the hell he was thinking?

posted by rcade at 11:14 AM on March 23, 2010

I'm a Liverpool fan, so probably every five or six minutes.

If Zidane had done it, I'd buy it was deliberate. If Cronaldo had done it, I'd suspect it might have been. If Cantona, Ronaldinho or Maradona had done it, I'd know they meant it. But Clint Dempsey did not do that on purpose. He was standing one up for Zamora and he misjudged it.

I've just watched it half a dozen times again. After he hits it, it's hard to see his reaction, but for me (maybe because I'm trying to prove my own argument), he seems to do two things: he pulls his body back and he drops his shoulders. That to me screams "I've hit that too hard and it's going too close to the keeper - I'm disappointed"

As he watches it and is starting to turn back towards his own goal (a golfer's lean to try and make the ball curl) he suddenly checks as he spots the ball is on target for the corner. He's surprised.

I'm grasping.

posted by JJ at 11:23 AM on March 23, 2010

Having read and seen a number of interviews with Dempsey over time, he strikes me as just the humble sort to admit that it was a cross that floated into the corner if that was indeed the case. He has already admitted that it was a lucky goal, and I'm inclined to take his word for it that he did what he was intending to do (with an admittedly "lucky" result).

The article itself gets the set-up wrong:

"The minutes were fading on the game and Juve was almost home and dry in the Europa League. Out of nothing but his imagination, Dempsey assessed the situation and chipped the ball over the Italian."

Had Dempsey not scored, Juventus would not have been through; the teams would have been heading for extra time.

posted by holden at 11:38 AM on March 23, 2010

I'll grant you this though: if any of those other players had done it, you couldn't move for seeing replays of it for the next 15 years. It's amazing in sport how the person involved makes so much difference to public perception. It reminded me of the best golf shot of the last decade. If Tiger had hit it, you'd have seen it a hundred times by now; as it is, having just found it on YouTube, I'm going to say I've now seen it half a dozen times.

Shaun Micheel, 2003 USPGA, needs a par to win as he stands over his approach to the final hole, so he eases the tension and does this. That's a great shot on a Sunday morning playing with your mates, but at that time, under those circumstances? That should be in the top five ever.

posted by JJ at 11:40 AM on March 23, 2010

I'm a fellow Red but Gerrards goal agains Hull earlier this season I think is a better example of a cross that went in. Especially his reaction to it going in.

I give Dempsey credit for the shot.

posted by WolfpackMD at 11:42 AM on March 23, 2010

The article is overblown hyperbole whether Dempsey meant to score or not. His nature (what I know of it) is another argument in favour of the cross-not-shot position I'm clinging to. You'd need to be seriously confident - bordering on arrogant - to take on that finish. He's not. He didn't.

posted by JJ at 11:43 AM on March 23, 2010

*L* WolfpackMD

At least SG had the decency to look embarrassed.

posted by JJ at 11:46 AM on March 23, 2010

Gotta say, this is one of the more entertaining threads I've seen here in a while. I'm going to go with a shot on this one...but I can see the argument the other way as well. As a Juve fan, that one definitely hurt, but at least it was Dempsey that drove the knife in.

posted by pholcomb at 11:56 AM on March 23, 2010

To me, Dempsey's played with more swagger the past year. This got him into trouble a few times in international matches where he tried cocky moves that left his teammates out of position when he turned it over.

posted by rcade at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2010

I would think you would also have the be seriously confident/arrogant to have a go from this location as well. Dempsey has the best touch on the US squad (perhaps damning with faint praise, that) and while he apparently has humility in spades on the pitch, I think he has plenty of swagger on it.

posted by holden at 12:25 PM on March 23, 2010

I was watching the game live and love the result, no opinion on cross or shot.

To me the real hilarity is the NY Times feeling the need to pander to American readers by giving Dempsey's goal such extreme recognition. I know newspapers are hurting (I'm part of a startup trying to change that) but this is just funny.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:36 PM on March 23, 2010

holden, that's not confidence, that's hit and hope. He didn't look up and spot a keeper three yards off his line, he just put his foot through a bouncing ball. Don't get me wrong; I rate him and like his play. He's a very good professional footballer, but he's not a legend of the game (nor likely to become one).

If anything, that Stoke goal suggests to me that if he was going to shoot from where he was against Juve, he'd have just blasted it. The configance (that's copyright me now, yes?) is what makes someone like Zidane do something like this in the world cup final, instead of just putting his laces through it like most people would have done. Dempsey's not got that. About ten people in the history of the game have had it.

posted by JJ at 12:54 PM on March 23, 2010

[I watched the game in the middle of the night in a hotel room in China. I kept flicking between it and the Bremen vs Valencia game every few minutes. There were 13 goals in those two games combined. I managed to miss 9 of them because they kept happening while I was watching the other game (or the IPL cricket that was also on).]

posted by JJ at 12:56 PM on March 23, 2010

He's a very good professional footballer, but he's not a legend of the game (nor likely to become one).

The weakest plank of your argument is that Dempsey's shot isn't legendary because he's not a legendary player. That's circular. He's still in his prime. The Stoke shot and this one could be followed by more ridiculous goals. Who knows where his rep ends?

posted by rcade at 01:42 PM on March 23, 2010

The weakest plank of your argument is that Dempsey's shot isn't legendary because he's not a legendary player.

I think that sums it up nicely. Sometimes the sublime comes from someone fairly ordinary. And I think we have all established or agreed that the NYT piece is full of hyperbole and rah rah bullshit; no one on this thread is comparing Dempsey to Cantona, or even to Matt Le Tissier (who clearly would have had the cheek and confidence to go for goal there), for that matter.

If anything, that Stoke goal suggests to me that if he was going to shoot from where he was against Juve, he'd have just blasted it.

That argument is specious, because it assumes that just because he would do one thing in one situation, he would be thinking to do (or limited to doing) the same thing in a totally different situation. Having one particular skill set does not preclude the possession of another.

posted by holden at 02:28 PM on March 23, 2010

Yeah. But you can prove anything with facts.

I'll take all of those arguments and concede them completely. I suppose we'll never know what he meant to do in the moment, but I'm not buying what the NYT is selling.

posted by JJ at 04:22 PM on March 23, 2010

I suppose we'll never know what he meant to do in the moment

I don't think even he knew. That could be the point. At that stage of the game he might have been running on auto pilot.

posted by owlhouse at 04:55 PM on March 23, 2010

He entered in the 71st minute and scored in the 82nd.

A Guardian feature on Dempsey's goal has some interesting factoids. He's scored more goals, 19, than any other Fulham player the past season. He's also third this year among all forwards in tackles.

posted by rcade at 05:39 PM on March 23, 2010

He's scored more goals, 19, than any other Fulham player the past season.

A slight corrective -- that is his tally over the past 3 seasons, which speaks perhaps more of the paucity of goal-scoring options at Fulham than the prolific scoring nature of Dempsey. Still, he is obviously very important to Fulham.

posted by holden at 05:48 PM on March 23, 2010

Oops. Thanks. Knew it was 3 but left that out somehow.

posted by rcade at 06:00 PM on March 23, 2010

He entered in the 71st minute and scored in the 82nd.

I know, it's not so much the physical side (apart from adrenaline), but the mental side in a high pressure game such as that.

posted by owlhouse at 06:15 PM on March 23, 2010

At that stage of the game he might have been running on auto pilot.

I think that's a fairer assessment. As someone who walked away hoarse, breathless and euphoric from a couple of crazy European nights, it doesn't matter: at that stage of that kind of match, it always looks as if players are drawing on instinct and guts, and brilliant things can happen as a result. No matter what, Dempsey will be remembered for the same reasons as Massimo Maccarone.

posted by etagloh at 08:55 PM on March 23, 2010

I'm not ready to anoint Dempsey as a new anything, but you'll have to add me to the liar's list, JJ. I think he meant it.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 10:24 PM on March 23, 2010

I did a stupid thing and went and thought about this some more. I think I'm missing the point somewhat. His intentions are irrelevant. He put the ball in the net, end of story. He hit a ball that had options - if he wrapped his foot round it too much, Zamora might have got to it on the far post, or (as happened) if he caught the top corner, it beats everyone and goes in.

I've always been annoyed in golf by people describing a hole-in-one as lucky (when they'll happily describe a shot that finishes an inch from the hole as brilliance). You play for an area and hope for some luck. Dempsey did the same and got some good fortune. Good for him.

I suspect the vehemence of my initial comment should have been directed more at the hyperbollock who wrote the NYT article.

posted by JJ at 06:19 AM on March 24, 2010

That was a pure shot on goal and the result was a goal... His body movement, the kick, the way he wrapped his foot around the ball and the way he squared his shoulders while shooting...AFTER he kicks it, he's not looking where Zamora is or could be running to receive a cross, he is looking straight at the goal and the keeper's position to check if he is still standing where he was the last time he looked... All evidence that was not a cross but a shot. Dempsey is getting more and more confident and he WILL be getting only better if he stays healthy. I have seen him do similar things already...some even more outrageous than that. Some have worked and some haven't...this is not a fluke and you will see more from him soon.

JJ, i don't know what your deal is but you seem to just dislike the dude and can't give him credit where its due...

posted by StarFucker at 06:47 AM on March 27, 2010

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