In the wake of the reports from Friday night that United States international forward Clint Dempsey is on the verge of joining the Seattle Sounders, there has been plenty said and written about the move. Much is positive with Sounders fans understandably jubilant about their team making this stunning move, but there's also an under current of negativity that calls back to many of the short sighted feelings and opinions carried by some American soccer fans.
Dempsey hates turf, moving to MLS shows he lacks ambition, the US Men's National Team is going to suffer because of this, etcetera etcetera. I've seen and heard it all and I have one reaction to it.
Rubbish, nonsense, ridiculousness!
I think a vast majority of the negative reactions to Dempsey's move are ridiculous, petty and tired old narratives that are dragged around by American fans like old anchors that they're either unwilling or incapable of cutting loose. Because, if you really stop to think about what is being thrown out as reasons against this transfer, they don't hold water.
This move makes sense for the Sounders. This move makes sense for MLS. This moves makes sense for the UMSNT. This move makes sense for Clint Dempsey. Period, end of sentence, full stop.
Still, we have to address what is being said because until it stops, we're doing the growth of both MLS and the sport of soccer a disservice.
So here goes.
"Dempsey hates turf"
There's no doubt that Dempsey has spoken out against artificial turf on several occasions. It was only two months ago when he was with the national team in Seattle that he told reporters, "I'd rather play on real grass over turf than to play on turf".
That of course was in response to the grass laid down over CenturyLink Field's turf surface for a World Cup qualifier.
That's a perfectly reasonable statement and a sentiment shared by a vast majority of players who prefer playing the game on grass. I prefer seeing the game played on grass, but there are legitimate reasons why that's not possible in certain stadiums and regions.
Dempsey's feelings are being used as a reason this could be a bad move and my response is nonsense. Implying such is insulting to Dempsey because you're basically saying he has no idea what he's getting in to.
To suggest otherwise is insulting to the player, his intelligence and him knowing what is best for his career. He knows the deal, he would never have even considered this move if he felt it was going to be a problem. Besides, Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins and others seem to be adjusting just fine.
"Dempsey lacks ambition/This will hurt the USMNT"
Again this is nonsense, if anything it's bitter Fulham fans who are still grumbling about Dempsey forcing his way out of the club last summer as he chased playing in the Champions League. Dempsey went to Spurs, he played well, but ultimately the club fell just short of making it into Europe's biggest club tournament.
Left with the realization that the Champions League dream might not come true and the possibility of being farther down Andre Villas-Boas' depth chart than he'd like, Dempsey had to make a choice. Chase the dream, stick it out with Spurs and face the potential of limited minutes or find a place to play and ensure his ready for the World Cup.
This move shows ambition and it shows that Dempsey is very much aware of his importance to the USMNT. He knows he's a vital cog in Jurgen Klinsmann's machine and for him to be most effective next summer in Brazil, Dempsey needs to be playing regular minutes.
Klinsmann's oft-quoted statement about players needing to challenge themselves at the highest levels shouldn't be considered an all-encompassing statement. If that were the sole criteria for player selection, guys like Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi wouldn't be regular starters for the USMNT. There are cases when a player has become comfortable in a situation because it is easy and at that point, a challenge is needed.
This doesn't apply to Dempsey at this stage of his career.
He has challenged himself, he proved he can play in the Premier League, and now at the age of 30 he knows this will likely be his final World Cup as a starter and making the move to Seattle is a calculated decision. A means to an end.
Sitting on the bench at Spurs would not have helped Dempsey -- other than keeping him healthy and uninjured -- but being a starter in Seattle, playing week in and week out, will help keep Dempsey sharp and have him ready to go next summer.
That's good for the national team and don't you dare give me any lip about Dempsey getting injured by playing on turf. He could get injured anywhere, at any time. That's part of the game.
"MLS is a step down"
This is a popular shout for many signings but it's becoming increasingly weak and more of a dying battle cry from American soccer fans who simply refuse to give the league a chance.
There's absolutely no question that MLS is not the best league in the world, but it's absolutely far from being the worst. It has problems, quirky issues and all sorts of off-the-field things that make it frustrating. It also produces competitive play, and as I mentioned before, produces starters for the national team.
Dempsey will be able to play at a high level in MLS and play against quality players -- for the most part -- each week that will help him prepare for the World Cup next summer. That's all that matters at this point and I know I'm repeating myself here to a certain extent, but Dempsey wants and needs to be playing regularly. Seattle and MLS offers him that, not to mention being a massive PR win for the team and the league.
If Dempsey wasn't an American, if this was a noted European or South American player who was coming to MLS from a top foreign league, people's soccer pants would be going ballistic. Yet because it's an American different rules apply?
Forgive me to shaking my head at you but it's an absurd line of thinking. This is a good move for all involved. If you really need something to crusade about, put pressure on MLS to reveal the mechanics that made this move possible. That's where there the focus needs to be, not on whether or not an experienced soccer player knows what's best for his career and future.