Dempsey: Wear the USA kit with pride

Clint Dempsey told FOX Soccer exclusively that US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann would help him raise his game to the next level, the host of new faces coming on to the national team was a big positive, and young players have to learn the basics in order to succeed (full interview, above).

The Fulham striker and his family opened up their home to FOX Soccer for the Christmas season as a gift to his American fans. With his mother, father and brother Ryan, Dempsey discussed the importance of the holidays, the meaning of family and his goals for the future in a rare long-form interview that you can only see on FOX Soccer. Dempsey, who grew up watching his new national team manager as a kid, was adamant that Klinsmann is the man for the transitional period the team finds itself in.

“To have a world class player to be your manager is a great thing. He has so much experience and knowledge that he has about the game that he can pass down to me. It’s great to add that to [my] game to be the best I can be.”

Klinsmann has raised some eyebrows by importing a number of new faces with German backgrounds, but Dempsey brushed any criticisms off, saying the newcomers were worthy of the opportunity and that they had helped raised the level of the team.

“It’s been a good thing,” said Dempsey. “It’s freshening things up, definitely giving a lot more players a chance to try and prove themselves. If you’re able to play for the country, no matter whether you’ve lived there your entire life or not, the important thing is you have to be good enough, and that when you do play you wear it with pride and never take it for granted. When you do that [for the USA], I think we’re happy to have any player, and the guys who have come in have done that.”

Dempsey also spoke glowingly of his high school coach, Farshid Niroumand, whom he credited with teaching him the basics and giving him a solid foundation to succeed.

“I was lucky enough that I was able to play club soccer,” said Dempsey, “But what Farshid taught me is that you have to do the simple things right. He also taught me a lot about life – it’s about your future and it is important to graduate and do something with your life.”

“A lot of the guys who played high school ball with me didn’t have a lot of positive role models, so to have someone like that steer us in the right direction was important. He stood for integrity and honor, and he got us on the right track.”

Dempsey, who has two young children with his wife Bethany, has thought hard about teaching the next generation of players, and feels that desire is one of the most important things a player must learn and retain.

“I want [my children] to learn the game how I learned it. You learn it because you love it, and because you love it, you want to teach yourself. I was lucky enough to have brothers and sisters to go outside and play pickup. I was able to watch games on TV, to play high school and club soccer, men’s league – and the most important thing is to play the game because you love the game, and play it to the best of your ability. Give it all you can, and you can look back and really enjoy the time you had playing the game.”

Dempsey doesn’t know his future, but he knows he wants to continue playing at the highest level. Transfer rumors have swirled around the American striker all season, and he admits he wants a shot at Europe’s biggest competition.

“You never know your road in life, but hopefully Champions League is in the cards for me, hopefully I can play one more World Cup, and hopefully still be playing at a high level for one or two more years [after that] before I hang up the boots.”

For more from Dempsey, including his favorite TV shows and music; the worst Christmas gifts he ever got, and the story of his parents’ sacrifices to get him to the top of the game, tune in exclusively to FOX Soccer all this week.