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Nov 12, 2013

U.S. bullish on Clint Dempsey

Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey is "working his way back to full fitness," and U.S. team coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Tuesday that Dempsey looks good for the side's upcoming friendlies vs. Scotland and Austria.

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Clint Dempsey is regaining his top form.

"We are excited to have Clint back. He’s our captain. It was a huge transition for him going back into MLS, struggling with injuries, not having had a preseason with Seattle," Klinsmann told USSoccer.com. "The results didn't work out the way he wanted them to be in Seattle, but we could see that he, step by step, is getting back in a rhythm."

Dempsey hasn't played for the United States since Sept. 13 due to injuries. He has scored 12 goals for the Americans since the start of 2012, helping the side clinch its seventh straight World Cup berth.

Dempsey, however, has struggled upon his return to MLS after seven seasons in the English Premier League, finally scoring in his ninth game with Seattle. The Sounders closed the season by going winless in nine of the final 10 matches -- playoffs included.

Klinsmann said he is keen on developing a competitive environment.

"We made it clear it's all about competition, it’s all about performance. It's not about how many caps you played in the past, what you did in the past, it's always about the moment, the present and the future," Klinsmann said.

"That deepens your roster, that deepens your possibilities as a coach to look around and bring some new faces in there."

The coach added new faces for the Nov. 15 game vs. Scotland in Glasgow and the Nov. 19 friendly vs. Austria, including Roma's Michael Bradley, Nottingham Forest's Eric Lichaj, AZ Alkmaar's Aron Johannsson, Rapid Vienna's Terrence Boyd and Rosenborg's Mix Diskerud.

Missing is injured LA Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan along with those still active in the MLS, including Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Brad Davis, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando.

"If you look at players like Aron and Terrence, like Mix Diskerud for example, you can see that they become more consistent professionals," Klinsmann said. "You can see that they are week-in, week-out challenged. Not everything goes perfect. Terrence Boyd sits on the bench, he gets a lesson and then he’s back and he scores. Overall, you see over time then that they start to produce, they start to deliver, they start to make an impression and become more confident."

Johannsson has posted 14 goals in all competitions this season, including nine in league play. Boyd has six goals in league play for Rapid Vienna this season and 10 in all competitions and is coming from scoring both goals in a 2-2 draw against Genk in the Europa League.

"When they go through difficult stages like Terrence did, like Brek Shea did and still does, it’s exciting to see when things fall into place," Klinsmann said. "You see that with a guy like Aron who’s become a real strike force for AZ Alkmaar now and scoring a lot of goals; similar with Terrence who is scoring goals in the Europa League and in different environments. They don’t have the consistency of a Tim Howard, a Michael Bradley or a Jermaine Jones, but we can see it’s coming along, it’s getting there. With every year in a harder environment, and continuing to prove themselves, they will become more confident and more stable."

Klinsmann also said he was sympathetic to Jozy Altidore's struggles with Sunderland.

"We are very satisfied with the way things are going with Jozy even with him being in a tough situation right now. The Premier League started and he hasn’t scored yet. Sunderland is a new club for him," he said. "It's a big club, and the way they were playing their game, he was not getting many opportunities to score. So I went there myself, watched it myself and have proof of what I saw before when I watched it on TV. It's really difficult for Jozy, but this is also what he needs to go through."

Lichaj was selected for the first time since Klinsmann became coach. He has not played for the U.S. since the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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