By JACK BELL
Clint Dempsey announced his emphatic return to international soccer by scoring four goals in two crucial World Cup qualifying matches as the United States came off life support and injected itself back into the Hexagonal, the final round in CONCACAF.
Dempsey, 34, again collaborating with the savant Christian Pulisic, gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead at Estadio Rommel Fernández on Tuesday night. The lead did not last long; the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
But for Dempsey, the four goals (three last Friday against Honduras) are a clear message that he has overcome scary heart problems that kept him away from the game for several months.
For the U.S. and Coach Bruce Arena, three points from two games puts the American team back in the conversation ahead of matches in June against Trinidad and Tobago (June 8), and at Mexico (June 11).
The goal gives Dempsey 56 for the national team, one behind the career leader Landon Donovan. It was also Dempsey’s 18th goal in World Cup qualifying, No. 1 on the U.S. career list.
Pulisic, 18, has solidified his spot with the national team, just in case there was any doubt. He leads the team with five assists in World Cup qualifying this year and has scored three goals, tied with Bobby Wood for third among his teammates.
In addition to its victory in Panama City that denied Panama a chance to play in the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. now has an 11-1-5 record against Los Canaleros and will face them again this summer in the Gold Cup, and then again in October in qualifying.