Clint Dempsey eyed by the elite 

February, 3, 2012
02/03/12
12:17
PM ET

Is it all a shock anymore that Clint Dempsey refuses to be denied?

When we first came up with the idea for a Hot List based on what Americans' club exploits might mean for the national team, we took care to explain that a consistent performer like Dempsey, with his spot in the U.S. lineup assured, probably wouldn't be discussed here unless something extraordinary happened. Well, in Dempsey's case, something has.

With over three months left in his season, the 28-year-old Texan has already set another career high for goals, attracted the interest of top European clubs and prompted his coach to change his position -- all of which could have implications for Jurgen Klinsmann's Yanks.

Landon Donovan, who got the better of Dempsey and Fulham in an FA Cup showdown last week, makes a cameo this time around, too. Donovan's intelligent displays while on loan with Everton should erase any doubts -- if there were any -- that he will continue to be a key player for the U.S. through the 2014 World Cup. They also should help him return to Klinsmann's good graces.

Things are a little less certain for the rest of the names listed below, but all of them are worth discussing right now. Heck, there may even be a shocker or two.

HEATING UP

Clint Dempsey, F, Fulham (England)
Why he's here: Dempsey is in the form of his career right now, with 16 goals in all competitions for Fulham. In recent games, including Wednesday's 1-1 draw with West Brom (Dempsey had the Cottagers' goal), he has been deployed as a forward by coach Martin Jol.

What this means: Deuce has made no secret of his Champions League ambitions, and a move to a top-four Premiership squad seems inevitable this summer if he maintains his blistering scoring pace. So does a full-time move to striker for the U.S.

Landon Donovan, MF, Everton (England)
Why he's here: As good as he was during a similar loan stint with the Toffees two years ago, Donovan has been even better this time around. He hasn't scored yet but he's been an assist machine, and manager David Moyes has played him every minute of the seven games for which he's been available.

What this means: Klinsmann wasn't pleased (to say the least) with Donovan's decision to skip the Americans' November friendly in France, but he has to be happy with the way the national team's all-time top scorer is playing in the Premier League.

Danny Williams, D, Hoffenheim (Germany)


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Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.

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