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A star is born

Dempsey leads New England to top spot

Posted: Monday May 9, 2005 4:16PM; Updated: Monday May 9, 2005 6:20PM
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So, Clint Dempsey, you're the hottest player in MLS, Sports Illustrated wants to interview you for a story, and you can pick any dining establishment you want, all expenses paid.

"Why don't we meet at Dunkin' Donuts?"

You might recall that ex-Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell stuck SI's Peter King with a $449 dinner tab during the NFL playoffs. For the record, Dempsey -- the surging New England Revolution midfielder who leads MLS in scoring -- ordered a blueberry muffin (cost: $1.42).

He'll learn.

Turns out Dempsey had plans to stick a pinch between his cheek and gum and go fishing last Thursday with teammate Steve Ralston on Norton Reservoir, not far from Gillette Stadium. (They ended up catching a half-dozen largemouth bass on Ralston's boat.)

So over the next half-hour we had what I can safely call the best interview I've ever conducted in a Dunkin' Donuts. Check out this week's SI for my Dempsey story, but before we dive into the Power Rankings here are some Dempsey B-sides that got left on the cutting-room floor:

• The Texas Tornado (Dempsey hails from Nacogdoches, Texas) is as impressed as anyone by the way the Revs (5-0-1) have performed so far. "We're just playing more together as a team," he says. "Most of our goals -- and all of mine -- have come from crosses. We're getting the ball wide and having good service into the box. Without my team I definitely wouldn't have been scoring those goals."

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• Dempsey may own a five-game goal-scoring streak heading into Saturday's game against D.C. United (4 p.m. ET, ESPN2), but he also has four assists -- three more than he had during the entire 2004 regular season. "Last year I'd get the ball in open space and get real excited and just want to get forward," he says. "I didn't really see all the lanes where they were making runs. That's something I'm trying to make a conscious effort to do this year."

• With five caps the 22-year-old Dempsey is just getting his feet wet with the national team heading into the May 28 friendly in Chicago against England. According to Dempsey, U.S. coach Bruce Arena has asked him to do the same things Feyenoord coaches asked during a two-week training stint in Holland last fall. "He said I need to work on my change of pace," Dempsey says. "Sometimes I play at just one pace. I need to learn to slow it down and speed it up. I have these long legs [he's 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds], so I'm trying to improve on it and open some eyes overseas."

• The Revs like Dempsey's intensity, even if that means an occasional dust-up in training, as he had with Revolution defender Avery John last week. "The first thing with Clint is that he likes to play the game," says New England coach Steve Nicol. "He trains exactly how he plays and goes hard every day, so on Saturdays he gets the benefit. He's always trying new things, new tricks. The biggest thing is to try and point him in the right direction about when and when not to use the tools he has."

In the meantime, I'll point Dempsey in the right direction about where to eat. Next time it's my call, pal.