Crazy Gambling Stories – June; Was the Fix In at World Cup?; Boys of Summer


ernests gulbin
Crazy Gambling Stories From June

From Tennis Star Losing Winnings At Blackjack To Tobey Maguire Being Grilled
by Brian Pempus
The gambling world can sometimes produce really off-the-wall stories. Every month there are plenty of cases of individuals going to extreme lengths to pay back debts, or of simply bizarre behavior at casino properties around the globe. It can be entertaining and sometimes sad.

June was no exception, as there was plenty that happened in the casino world.

Here’s a look at some of the most colorful and noteworthy from the month that was.

Tennis Star Drops $557,000 In French Open Winnings Playing Blackjack At A Casino

Tennis player Ernests Gulbis, who recently made the semifinals of the French Open, said that he was so tilted by his exit out of the event that he went to a Latvian casino and lost all of his $557,000 in prize money.

“After losing to Djokovic, I returned to Latvia with my cousin and I went to the Casino,” Gulbis told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I bet all prize money won in Paris and I lost it.”

Man Carjacks Taxi Driver To Pay Off Gambling Debt

A New Jersey man accused of carjacking a taxi driver at knifepoint in Staten Island last month told police he did so to pay off a gambling debt, according to

Michael Ruocco, 23, confessed to the robbery in a statement to police, according to the criminal complaint against him.

“I called a cab company in New Jersey. When I got to Staten, it came to my head to tell him to give me his money,” Ruocco said, according to the complaint. “I had a debt with somebody over gambling and felt I had no choice but to do what I did.”

Court Says That Joe Francis Still Has To Pay Steve Wynn $19 Million For Defamation

A court in Los Angeles upheld a $19 million judgement in a slander case between “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis and Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn, the AP reported.

Years ago, and after racking up a $2 million gambling debt at one of Wynn’s casinos, Francis claimed that Wynn threatened to kill him and have him buried in the desert. Francis said that the threats were made over email. The then 70-year-old Wynn denied the claims, adding that he has never sent an email in his entire life.

In 2012, a court sided with Wynn and said Francis owed him $40 million. That judgement was eventually cut down to $19 million.

World Cup Biter Loses Web Poker Sponsorship

Online poker site 888 dropped Luis Suárez as one of its brand “ambassadors” after the soccer player apparently bit another player during a recent World Cup game.

Suárez, who is from Uruguay, has been accused of biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. FIFA reportedly is reviewing the incident, even though Suárez wasn’t penalized during the match. He could be booted from the tournament. Suárez has been suspended twice previously for biting sweaty football players during matches.

Gambler In Las Vegas Almost Loses $350,000 On World Cup Match, Saved By Last-Minute Goal

According to a report from ESPN, a gambler in Las Vegas almost lost a total of $350,000 on Iran vs. Argentina in the 2014 World Cup.

Argentina was such a massive favorite in the match, but it took a last-minute goal from Lionel Messi to secure the win.

According to the report: “An unnamed better staked $230,000 on Argentina to beat Iran at a William Hill outlet at Las Vegas’ Tuscany Casino. Such were the short odds of such a bet, it would only return a profit of $20,000. According to company spokesman Michael Grodsky, it was the largest wager on the World Cup taken by William Hill, but that did not stop the same customer returning to put another $120,000 on the same outcome.”

Former Cop Pleads Guilty To Seizing, Then Selling, Illegal Gambling Machines

A former Columbia, SC, deputy sheriff pleaded guilty to seizing illegal electronic gambling machines and then selling them for his personal gain, instead of turning them in as contraband. According to, Michael Parker, 37, is facing up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced “at a later date.”

U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said Parker “corruptly seized a number of illegal poker machines from local businesses and then redistributed the same illegal poker machines from which he personally benefited financially” between 2010 and 2012.

Racetrack Mistakenly Overpays Gambler $6,000; Gambler Faces Possible Felony Theft Charge

According to the Omaha World-Herald, authorities in Omaha were looking for a customer who was mistakenly overpaid nearly $6,000 on a wager by a cashier at Horsemen’s Park. The gambler handed the cashier a ticket for $63.50, but an employee error on the computer resulted in him being handed over a lot more in winnings.

The man allegedly left the property in a hurry after realizing what had happened.

The decision could cost him dearly, as authorities could charge the man with felony theft, the report said. The head of security at the racetrack filed a police report for theft. If charged, and convicted, the customer could face up to five years in prison.

Pennsylvania Man Accused Of Stealing Nearly 100 Tons Of Copper To Fund Gambling Habit

A Pennsylvania man hugely addicted to blackjack, slots, sports betting and scratch-off lottery tickets has been accused of stealing nearly 100 tons of copper—valued at more than $730,000—from his former employer.

According to, 45-year-old James Bryan allegedly stole from his employer of 27 years, Wescott Electric, from 2003 to 2013. Over a 17-month period between 2012 and 2013, he allegedly made 164 trips to a recycling center, selling the coils of copper wire.

Administrator Creates Bogus University Scholarship, Diverts Money To Pay Off Gambling Debt

An administrator at a fundraising organization that benefits the University of Hawaii system used his position to write a phony scholarship for the Manoa campus and then siphoned off the money to pay back $2,000 to his bookie.

According to Hawaii News Now, Dodge Watson pleaded guilty to one count of identity theft in district court. His plea allowed him to avoid charges for money laundering and running an internet gambling business. “He created a scholarship at his job at the UH and basically diverted the money from the scholarship to pay off his gambling debt,” his attorney Eric Seitz said.

Golden Nugget Atlantic City Wins Favorable Ruling In Case Of $1.5 Million Baccarat Scandal

A judge ruled in favor of the Golden Nugget Atlantic City in a high-stakes court battle over more than $1.5 million in scandalous mini-baccarat winnings.

On the night of April 30, 2012, a group of 14 gamblers noticed that cards being used for mini-baccarat were not shuffled. They increased their bets from $10 to $5,000 a hand, eventually taking the house for a massive sum. They cashed out $558,900, but there was $977,800 in chips the casino refused to redeem.

Man Exonerated Thanks To DNA Evidence After 32 Years In Prison Now Accused Of Murder In Gambling Dispute

According to media reports, a Chicago man who was freed from prison after serving 32 years for a murder he more than likely didn’t commit, has now been accused of a new crime—killing a man over a dispute in a game of dice.

Andre Davis spent more than three decades in a supermax prison after being convicted of heinous acts of violence against a three-year-old girl in 1980. In 2004, it was determined that it wasn’t Davis’ DNA at the crime scene. It took eight years before the state finally decided to let the 53-year-old out of prison. Prosecutors declined to take Davis to trial again.

Fast forward to October 2013, and Davis allegedly helped his nephew, Derrick Hilliard, kill 19-year-old Jamal Harmon, who was found in a Chicago alley shot and stabbed to death.

Molly Bloom: During Poker Game, Tobey Maguire Told Me To ‘Bark Like A Seal Who Wants A Fish’

According to Molly Bloom, who was dubbed the “Poker Princess” for hosting high-stakes underground games that catered to celebrities, actor Tobey Maguire is terrible to have at your home poker game.

The New York Post reported that in an excerpt from her new book (“Molly’s Game”) published by Vanity Fair, Bloom said that Maguire once asked her to “bark like a seal who wants a fish” for a $1,000 chip. Maguire also was “the worst tipper,” despite consistently being the biggest winner, Bloom said.



Cameroon soccer federation examining allegations of World Cup match fixing

Convicted match-fixer believes Cameroonian players ‘on the take’

Der Spiegel magazine claims Wilson Raj Perumal predicted that Cameroon would lose 4-0 to Croatia and have a player red-carded.
By: The Associated Press
RIO DE JANEIRO — A convicted match-fixer denied a report in a German magazine Tuesday that he predicted the result and details of a World Cup game.

Cameroon’s football federation said it was investigating the match-fixer’s allegations of corruption involving its World Cup squad and that seven of its players could have been bought.

Der Spiegel magazine claimed that Wilson Raj Perumal — the best-known match-fixer in football— accurately predicted hours before the game in an online chat with one of its journalists that Cameroon would lose 4-0 to Croatia and have a player sent off in the first half.

And that is what happened in the June 18 match. Cameroon’s Barcelona midfielder Alex Song was red-carded before halftime for elbowing Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic in the back and Cameroon was beaten 4-0.

Der Spiegel’s claims rang alarm bells because Perumal was convicted of fixing matches in Finland and suspected of fixing other games in Africa and involving African teams. He isn’t averse to self-publicity, having recently published memoirs with two journalists as co-authors.

But in a statement, Perumal denied having predicted the outcome. He said a Facebook conversation about Cameroon with the Der Spiegel journalist happened three days after the game, not hours before as the reporter claimed.

“At no time did I make reference to four goals being scored or to a red card being issued,” Perumal said in his statement sent by the authors of his biography.

“I am shocked and amazed that a respected magazine such as Der Spiegel would go so far as to fabricate statements by yours truly with the visible aim of stirring the row over match-fixing,” he said. “I apologize to the Cameroon FA and to its fans if I inadvertently offended them; it was not my intention. I strongly believe that Der Spiegel should also do the same since they placed words in my mouth that I did not utter.”

The Associated Press saw alleged copies of a Facebook conversation where Perumal and the reporter chatted about Cameroon. But the exchanges were dated June 21, three days after the game.

Cameroon “is on the take i think,” Perumal claimed in the chat with Der Spiegel reporter Rafael Buschmann.

“They have i guess seven rotten apples in the team,” he added.

But in his statement Tuesday, Perumal said he had no proof for those claims.

“At no time did I suggest that I had any way of corroborating or substantiating what was meant to be an educated guess based on my extensive match-fixing experience. Last but not least: at no time was I informed by the Der Spiegel journalist that our chat was going to end up in the German publication.”

Buschmann stood by his story but did not immediately respond to AP requests to also share copies of his exchanges with Perumal.

“We firmly stand by our assertion that Mr Perumal wrote in a Facebook chat with der Spiegel some hours before the world cup match Croatia vs Cameroon, that the result of the match will be a 4-0-victory for Croatia and that a player of Cameroon will get a red card in the first halftime,” Buschmann wrote by email to the AP.

Earlier, Cameroon’s football federation said it instructed its ethics committee to open an investigation.

“We are strongly committed to employ all means necessary to resolve this disruptive matter,” Fecafoot said.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter also confirmed a probe was underway, telling reporters: “Yes I have been told about this but let them do their work on this investigation.”

The Croatia game was the low point of a disastrous World Cup for Cameroon. It conceded nine goals and scored just one in its three games and its whole campaign was overshadowed by a threatened strike by players over World Cup payments.

The match was also marred by an argument between teammates Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Benjamin Moukandjo that ended with Assou-Ekotto head-butting Moukandjo.

Cameroon’s heavy defeat to Croatia wasn’t a major surprise. It came into this World Cup having previously lost nearly half of its games in six previous participations in the showcase tournament. Its record was played 20, lost 9, drew 7 and won just 4. It also wasn’t Cameroon’s worst World Cup defeat: It lost 6-1 to Russia at the 1994 tournament in the United States and suffered another 4-0 loss to the then Soviet Union in 1990.

tim howard
World Cup Pass & Move: The Boys of Summer
2014 World Cup

by Grantland Staff
For the last two weeks, the United States men’s national team has had your neighbor talking about 4-3-3 formations, the lady on the bus wearing a Clint Dempsey–riding-Falkor T-shirt, and has probably been the reason dozens of babies will be named John Anthony in nine months. The American players helped inspire a palpable passion around the game in this country, unlike anything we’ve felt before. And they helped make this truly extraordinary World Cup one that none of us will ever forget. With the United States’s exit from the tournament at the hands of Belgium, a few Grantland writers — Brian Phillips, Chris Ryan, Mike L. Goodman, Noah Davis, Ryan O’Hanlon, and Bill Barnwell — wanted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the players that gave us so much this summer.

Brian Phillips: Is it still possible to think in sentences? Is it still possible to think at all? When I try to come to terms with what Tim Howard did yesterday, my brain just, like, kaleidoscopes. I mean, I see fireworks. I see stars. I see imaginary GIFs where the ball explodes every time he punches it. I see shocked Belgian attackers staring up at him like Wildlings catching their first sight of an ice wall 800 feet high: You mean we have to go through that? I see him yelling at his defenders, pointing his big gloves like someone showing 10 wobbly pins how not to be afraid of a bowling ball.

I have watched hundreds of hours of soccer in my life. Thousands. If a thing can happen on the pitch, I’ve seen it. I’ve watched 4-0 leads erased in minutes. I’ve watched managers fight their own players. I’ve watched a star for FC Barcelona receive a standing ovation at the Bernabéu, the home of Real Madrid. I’ve seen every kind of insanity and every kind of brilliance. I’m not saying this to brag. I just want to establish some context. Because I’ve never seen anything like what Tim Howard did yesterday.

In fact, no one has seen anything like what Howard did yesterday, because it’s never happened before, at least not in living memory. Howard’s 16 saves were the most recorded by a World Cup goalkeeper since FIFA started keeping the statistic nearly half a century ago. To put that number in perspective: Only six other teams in 2014 have recorded more than 16 saves over the entire tournament. Howard faced 39 shots — 39! — as a polished Belgium attack repeatedly overwhelmed the hardworking but very outclassed American defense. He was the only thing that kept this 2-1 Belgium win from being a beatdown for all time.

He saved shots in every way possible. Against Divock Origi one minute into the game, flinging out his right shin in the corner of the area. Against Jan Vertonghen, diving forward and clutching the ball to his chest. Against Kevin Mirallas, sliding sideways with his left foot. Against Dries Mertens, leaping up to tip the ball over the crossbar. This has been, in many ways, the World Cup of astonishing goalkeepers — Guillermo Ochoa, Vincent Enyeama, Keylor Navas; think of Júlio César in the penalty shootout against Chile — but Howard’s performance was a different grade of math.

And here’s what I wanted to say about him. When it was bad, you knew it could have been worse. When it got worse, you knew it could have been terrible. When it got terrible, you knew there was hope left, just a thread of it, but something to hold on to. You knew those things because he was there. If you watched the last two minutes in a heart-imploding frenzy, urging the U.S. to get forward and score the tying goal, the life you felt was the gift he gave you, because without him the match would have been over long before.

I don’t care that the U.S. lost. He goes into the lore. When the aged DeAndre Yedlin is hoisting the World Cup in 2026, Tim Howard is the background, in the same way that Brian McBride’s bloody face is the background and Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria is the background. He matters to American soccer forever because of this match. We lost, but he still saved us.

Game Recognize Game

DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green

Chris Ryan: Before this tournament, Noah Davis wrote about how the 2014 World Cup was going to be the end of an era for the USMNT. We would be waving good-bye to Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, and maybe Clint Dempsey, and we would be getting our first peek at Jürgen Klinsmann’s 2.0 squad.

Tuesday’s loss to Belgium pretty much delivered on both of those fronts. We saw the living legends leave it all out on the Salvador field, while a whole nation of soccer-watching fans was introduced to DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green.

The duo took different paths to get to Brazil. Yedlin arrived via the Washington state youth soccer production line. He played college ball in the States (at Akron) and is now a member of the Seattle Sounders. He’s quite literally a homegrown player. Green was born in Tampa, but he is more a product of the European football industrial complex. He plays for Bayern Munich and did time in Germany’s youth setup before choosing to play for the United States, the home nation of his father. FIFA only approved his nationality switch in March. Klinsmann threw Green on in the waning moments, down 2-0, as a Hail Mary. With one touch, Green answered his prayers.

No matter how Green and Yedlin got here, there’s really no getting around it now: They are the future of U.S. soccer. I don’t even mean them, specifically. If everything breaks right, we’ve got our very own Dani Alves and David Silva for the next 10 years. But even if these two wind up never having bigger moments than the ones they had in Brazil on Tuesday, they have introduced a new era. This is the new, open American soccer — an open style of play, and an open idea of what a USMNT player looks like. Couldn’t you feel it when they each came on? Some kind of page was turning. Something was ending, and something else was beginning.

When Klinsmann was asked about bringing Green to Brazil — a controversial move, considering who was left at home — he said this: “It’s a big step for him as we try to emotionally connect him to our program, because it’s not only a World Cup coming up this summer.”

Klinsmann was right, he just got it backward. I’m sure this was a big step for Green, but in the process of him and Yedlin making those steps, we were the ones who became emotionally connected.

Michael Bradley

Mike L. Goodman: Sometimes when an idea takes root it’s tough to get rid of it. That’s especially true in soccer, where so much is in the eye of the beholder. Is a striker lazy or is he not getting service? Is a defender getting beaten, or is he not getting the help he needs? So much of how we assess a player after a game is influenced by what we take into it in the first place. So, let’s take a minute to talk about Michael Bradley.

Bradley was good against Belgium. Those few desperate gasps of attacking momentum against the Belgian onslaught? Those came from Bradley taking a touch and shifting the ball wide into space for DeAndre Yedlin or DaMarcus Beasley. He had the legs (he always has the legs) to track back 60 yards in the closing minutes of regulation and snuff out Belgian attacks. As the game got more and more desperate, Bradley seamlessly shifted backward and forward, sometimes filling in as a deep-lying playmaker and second defender at the same time. And we haven’t even gotten to the assist, or that orchestrated set piece that almost brought a miracle home.

Look, Bradley wasn’t at his best during the group stage. More accurately, he did the most visible part of his job badly. In general, there was a sense that he lost the ball too often and was sloppy in possession. That is true. He also, as was increasingly cited as the tournament wore on, covered more ground than any other player at the World Cup. He also occupied an unfamiliar role, and when Jozy Altidore got hurt, he did it with an unfamiliar strike partner in Clint Dempsey.

So hopefully this game, even in defeat, kills the idea of “Michael Bradley is not good enough” before it ever has time to take root. At his best, as an attacking midfielder, Bradley will always lose the ball more than he does as a defensive mid. He’s supposed to (though, at his best, he also won’t do so in the dying moments with a lead). At his best, he’ll also start carving chances for a couple of forwards playing ahead of him, instead of being stuck with only one or less. And, of course, at his best, Bradley will run more than anybody, never tire, and stand up as the face of the USMNT to all who ask, just like he did while the rest of his game briefly abandoned him.

Bradley finally played well Tuesday. It wasn’t quite enough to win. But hopefully it will be enough to remind all of us just how vital he is.

DaMarcus Beasley

Noah Davis: Because I spend a lot of time watching the United States men’s national team by myself, I sometimes play this game in which I pretend there is a Mortal Kombat–esque power meter above DaMarcus Beasley’s head when he plays left back. As the game wears on, the midfielder turned defender takes hit after hit, is knocked down by bigger, stronger players, and inevitably requires a sub around the 75th minute mark, when the meter reaches zero.

Except in Brazil, Beasley, who would be his listed 5-foot-8, 145 pounds only if he had pointe shoes on and weights in his pockets, didn’t wear down. In a tournament in which the younger, fresher American legs of Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler, and Fabian Johnson needed help, the fourth-oldest field player — behind Brad Davis, Jermaine Jones, and Kyle Beckerman — went 90 minutes against Ghana, 90 against Portugal, 90 against Germany, and 120 against Belgium.

There he was in the 20th minute on Tuesday afternoon, clearing a cross off the line to save a goal, then leading the break upfield after the U.S. center backs cleared the ensuing corner kick. There he was on a full-field sprint in the 80th minute, another in the 93rd following Chris Wondolowski’s miss, and a third down the left flank in the 118th. Seconds later, he won a freaking header. Beasley was far from perfect, but still … damn, dude.

Four years ago, Beasley made a single substitute appearance at the World Cup in South Africa. He earned just a single cap for the Stars and Stripes in all of 2012, a forgotten man. But Jürgen Klinsmann gave him a final shot at a new position, and Beasley thrived.

“In German, we say he’s in his fourth spring,” the coach said of the defender before the game against Germany. “He’s smiling and enjoying every second of it. He’s in his fourth World Cup and he seems like he gets younger and younger. He never gets tired. If you want to call him at three o’clock at night and ask him if he wants to kick the ball around, he’s right there.”

The pre–World Cup narrative focused on Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Tim Howard, all of whom boast bigger profiles and are likely to retire from international soccer soon. Beasley, who sits on 120 caps (fifth all-time for the U.S.), 17 goals (tied for ninth), and appearances in four World Cups (first), will, too, but he was an afterthought, a quiet, forgotten man on a team of rising stars.

Against Belgium, he suffered seven fouls, more than double anyone else on the field. The power meter never moved.

Geoff Cameron

Ryan O’Hanlon: Here are two Geoff Cameron stories.

The first: I played college soccer at Holy Cross. Once, we had a preseason scrimmage against Cameron’s University of Rhode Island team. Cameron was taller and way better than all of us. Twenty or so minutes into the game, one of our center midfielders took him out with a studs-up tackle from behind. It is still unclear whether he got the ball. Either way, Cameron looked pretty hurt. The Rhode Island coach came onto the field and threatened to forfeit the rest of the (meaningless) game because, Jesus, it was just a scrimmage. Things cooled down eventually and we resumed playing, but Cameron sat out the rest of the game, we won, and seven years later Cameron was playing 120 face-melting minutes in the knockout stages of the World Cup.

Before Brazil, we talked a lot about how this tournament marked the tail end of what’s probably the greatest generation of players America’s ever produced. How it was the last bow for Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard (and Landon Donovan) before the growing crop of MLS and European academy kids took over for good. But this was also the only World Cup for another sub-generation of players — the guys who are 26, 27, and 28; the ones who grew up going to MLS games on weekends, watching Champions League games on weekdays, and otherwise trying to figure out if there was actually any kind of comprehensible pattern to the Fox Sports World programming schedule. We played within a still-nascent nationwide youth-club structure, received hit-or-miss coaching, and almost all of us ended up going to college because that’s just what you did if you wanted to keep playing after high school.

Cameron went to West Virginia and then Rhode Island, not playing a professional game until he turned 22. (For comparison, DeAndre Yedlin has played 42 professional games. He’s 20.) In a convenient way, Cameron melds the qualities of the pre- and post-Dempsey eras — big and athletic; naturally and effortlessly technical — and yesterday’s game (most touches and shots blocked, four take-ons, more than nine miles covered) showcased all of that. And I guess, then, I’m telling this story because even though I was hurt and never even played in that preseason game, I’m sheepishly and more than a bit pathetically proud to say that I almost did. Michael Bradley was always a soccer-playing cyborg who just happened to be our age; Cameron was one of us.

And the second story? Yesterday, my brother, who is 21, brought a picture of Geoff Cameron to the barber shop, showed it to the guy who was about to cut his hair, and said, “I want to look like this.” He now is the only person in the world with “The Geoff Cameron,” and, well — that’s it.

Clint Dempsey

Bill Barnwell: After the loss Tuesday, pundits seemed to agree on the next step for the United States. We know the Americans can compete with the best teams in the world. The next level is to compete with them without having to rely on overly defensive tactics and goalkeeping heroics. That requires more creative, skillful players in attack. Our team is built around one of those right now, American hero Clint Dempsey. The problem? He’s going to be gone soon, and we don’t appear to have much of an idea of how to make another one of him.

It’s de rigueur to point out that Dempsey mostly developed outside of the traditional U.S. youth processes that were around at the time. He received virtually no attention from the country’s youth teams, as his record in youth tournaments amounts to 20 minutes as a sub across five matches in the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship (for U-20 players). The likes of Joseph Ngwenya and Ramón Núñez were drafted before him in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft.

Even after he made his way to Fulham at 23, Dempsey was in and out of the starting 11 at Craven Cottage for most of his career there. Nothing about Dempsey’s career would follow any sort of traditional or best-case developmental model. And yet, there is nobody like him in the national pool; truthfully, we haven’t had another player like him during the modern era of this national team. Tab Ramos and Landon Donovan weren’t as daring or audacious. Claudio Reyna didn’t have Dempsey’s killer instinct. Preki didn’t come out of an American youth system and wasn’t anywhere near as impactful on a match-by-match basis. The closest comparison for Dempsey might be, jeez, Earnie Stewart? And even he grew up and developed as a footballer in the Netherlands. We’ve never made anything like Clint Dempsey on purpose or even come close.

Dempsey had an impressive World Cup. He scored two of the U.S.’s five goals, nearly adding a third against Belgium in extra time. He put up those numbers while playing nearly the entire tournament out of position, as a lone striker, out of sheer desperation after Jozy Altidore injured his hamstring. With little to no help, Dempsey had to make creative runs, win 50/50 balls flung up the pitch by desperate defenders, hold on to the possession while waiting for runners to arrive, and make useful passes to find teammates in stride, before then turning and attempting to finish. He did that because he’s a great player, but that’s not the best way to use Dempsey. His absence as an attacking midfielder was felt in how frequently the U.S. lost the ball, especially against Germany and Belgium. Michael Bradley attempted to fill his role, and, well, you know how that turned out. I don’t know that we would still be in action if Altidore had stayed healthy and Dempsey had gotten to spend the entire tournament as the no. 10, but I don’t think it would have hurt, either.

Sadly, we’ve almost certainly seen Dempsey’s last action at a World Cup. Remember that Donovan failed to make the national team for being washed-up at 32; Dempsey, playing in his third World Cup, is already 31. He will be 35 by the time Russia rolls around in 2018, and attacking players 35 or older rarely make an appearance on the game’s biggest stage. Just three forwards (all one-namers: Drogba, Forlan, and Klose) and four midfielders (Karagounis, Lampard, Pirlo, and Ecuador’s Édison Méndez) aged 35 or older made it to this World Cup. I don’t want to be the person who counts Dempsey out, but at the very least, it’s difficult to imagine him being the focus of America’s attacks the way he’s been during this World Cup cycle.

And, as you might expect, there’s nobody out there to replace him. Julian Green, for all the promise he showed yesterday, is still really a winger. Somebody like Luis Gil isn’t yet at Dempsey’s level. The closest fit of skills would be that of Mix Diskerud, who was one of two outfield players to make Jürgen Klinsmann’s 23-man squad without getting onto the field in Brazil, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll develop into a player of Dempsey’s class. Then again, there doesn’t really appear to be any sense in projecting or planning for Clint Dempseys to arrive. They seem to come out of nowhere, and all you know is that you wish you had more of them.



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