United States forward Clint Dempsey can make World Cup qualification history for his country when they face Guatemala in Group C on Friday.
The 33-year-old attacker – recalled to Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad after missing USA’s first two matches in the fourth round – sits level with Landon Donovan on 13 World Cup qualifying goals.
Dempsey insisted his mentality has never changed since making his debut in 2004 and has the chance to move to outright leader in that team category against Guatemala, although his overall goal tally of 48 remains well short of Donovan’s record mark of 57.
“I have enjoyed my time with the national team and every time I have got called up to camp and played in games, I have had the same mentality,” Dempsey told US Soccer.
“I have played my best, left everything out on the field and if you get opportunities to play, you continue in the same way.
“I don’t think that just because you have a little time off that you would change. For me, I have always treated it the same, wanted to make the most of the games I was a part of and tried to make an impact.”
USA and Guatemala are both in the running to finish in the top two group spots, which would seal a place in the final stage of CONCACAF qualifying for Russia 2018.
USA garnered four points from their first two games and are joint-top of the standings with Trinidad & Tobago, one clear of Guatemala in third as the two nations prepare to meet twice – on March 25 and 29 – with Klinsmann’s men away from home in the first fixture.
“You really don’t know what things are going to be like until you are actually there [in Guatemala] and experience it for yourself,” added Dempsey ahead of the two games against a side sitting 65 places below them in the FIFA rankings.
“It’s a passionate crowd, wanting their team to do well and sometimes dealing with difficult conditions, dealing with travel, that’s part of qualifying for the World Cup.
“That’s why it’s so difficult, but it’s also so rewarding when you are able to qualify for a World Cup. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a difficult game, but that’s part of the experience.
“You want to be performing well going into Copa America [in June] because it’s a major tournament as well and it’s an opportunity to do something great on home soil.”
USA have won their last three meetings – all at home – against Guatemala, including a 4-0 friendly win last July, but their last away trip was a 1-1 draw in 2012 and their visit prior to that resulted in a narrow 1-0 win in 2008.
“Our goal definitely for the two Guatemala fixtures is six points,” said Klinsmann. “We badly want to get the job done before the Copa America Centenario if possible.
“We know it’s going to be very difficult, especially the game in Guatemala City. It will be vital how we come out right away from the first second in Guatemala City and hopefully being able to get three points. That would make things a lot easier for the second game.”
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