Dempsey's record-setting exploits adding to his legend overseas
Clint Dempsey is putting together the great season ever by an American in Europe
He has two hat tricks in three weeks and has already scored 15 goals this season
Dempsey could potentially earn a transfer to the Champions League this summer
At the rate things are going, Michael Jackson won't be the only one with a statue of his likeness perched outside Craven Cottage in London.
The calendar has yet to hit February, and already Clint Dempsey has already turned in not just the greatest season of his career, but perhaps the greatest season any American field player has ever had playing for a club in Europe. Being able to do so in a matter of five months while playing at a middling top-flight club like Fulham makes it all the more eye-opening and impressive.
Appropriately named U.S. Soccer's 2011 Male Athlete of the Year for the second time in his career on Friday, Dempsey put forth his greatest feat as a professional the following day, recording the first hat trick by an American in the Premier League. The three goals bumped his total to 15 goals in all competitions (and counting), and Dempsey trails just Arsenal's Robin van Persie, Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero in that category among Premier League players.
He has two hat tricks in three weeks after notching the first one of his career against Charlton in the FA Cup on Jan. 7, and he has already surpassed his personal-best total of 13 goals in all competitions that he set last year -- with about four months to spare in the 2011-12 campaign.
After accounting for a Deuce of hat tricks and breaking former Fulham star Brian McBride's all-time record for goals in the Premiership by an American (a running tally that is currently at 42), there are just two more things Dempsey needs to do to polish off his special season: Break the record of 12 Premier League goals scored by an American that he set last season (he currently has nine), and find a way to a UEFA Champions League club this summer to add another layer -- not to mention the potential for silverware -- to his growing legend.
Dempsey has given Fulham everything he possibly can in his five years at the club save for a top-four finish, one that will never happen anytime soon considering the spending disparity between the likes of the Manchester and free-spending London clubs and the lower-tier Premier League teams. From literally saving Fulham from relegation with a goal against Liverpool in his first season in 2007, to helping carry the club to a deep run in the UEFA Europa League in 2010, to setting his own personal milestones, there is not a whole lot left for the fan favorite to accomplish.
Dempsey, who turns 29 in March and is under contract with Fulham until the end of the 2012-13 season, has spoken of his desire to compete in the Champions League, and his transfer value is reaching its peak. His loyalty, work ethic, hard-nosed attitude and level of production have rewarded Fulham with a heck of a return on its $4 million investment when the club purchased him from MLS' New England Revolution. It is only fitting that the powers-that-be at Craven Cottage repay the club icon that sports a Texas twang with a well-deserved transfer to a team that has a need for his services and is poised for Europe's grandest stage later this year.
And maybe even a statue someday down the road.
Aside from Dempsey and his record-setting exploits, here is how the Americans playing abroad -- including goal-scorer Maurice Edu and those returning to action following the Bundesliga winter break -- fared over the past week (season statistics encompass all competitions):
Clint Dempsey, M, Fulham - Started, was subbed off in the 90th minute and scored three goals in Fulham's 5-2 victory over Newcastle on Saturday. Dempsey scored in the 59th and 65th minutes to give Fulham a 3-1 lead and capped off his hat trick in the 89th minute. Dempsey opened his account after making a run on a Fulham breakout and being in the right place to poach a goal off a rebound of Bobby Zamora's hard shot. Zamora then provided Dempsey with his next two finishes, playing him into the box with a low through ball and chipping over the defense for Dempsey to track down with his pace. The Texas native converted in almost identical fashion on both goals, whipping two low, powerful blasts with his right foot toward the left post from just inside the area. SEASON: 30 games, 30 starts, 15 goals
Landon Donovan, M/F, Everton - Started, played 90 minutes and had a hand in Everton's goal in the club's 1-1 draw with Blackburn on Saturday. Donovan chipped a ball in from just outside the penalty area to the edge of the 6-yard box, where Marouane Fellaini chested it down for goal-scorer Tim Cahill at the goalmouth. SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts
Brad Friedel, GK, Tottenham - Started, played 90 minutes and made one save in Tottenham's 3-2 loss to Manchester City on Sunday. SEASON: 22 games, 22 starts, 83 saves, 24 goals allowed, 8 clean sheets
Brad Guzan, GK, Aston Villa - In the 18, did not play in Villa's 3-2 victory over Wolverhampton on Saturday. SEASON: 9 games, 8 starts, 30 saves, 8 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets
Marcus Hahnemann, GK, Everton - Not in the 18 for Everton's 1-1 draw with Blackburn on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Tim Howard, GK, Everton - Started, played 90 minutes and made three saves in Everton's 1-1 draw with Blackburn on Saturday. Howard was unable to punch away a 72nd-minute free kick after coming off his line, and Blackburn found the equalizer off the ensuing scrum in the box. SEASON: 23 games, 23 starts, 53 saves, 25 goals allowed, 5 clean sheets
Eric Lichaj, D, Aston Villa - Not in the 18 for Villa's 3-2 victory over Wolverhampton on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 goal
Zak Whitbread, D, Norwich City - Started, played 90 minutes in Norwich City's 0-0 draw with Chelsea on Saturday. Whitbread had perhaps his best game of the season, clamping down on Fernando Torres and doing his part to keep Chelsea's high-potential attack off the scoreboard. SEASON: 12 games, 12 starts
Conor Doyle, F, Derby County - Not in the 18 for Derby County's 0-0 draw with Burnley on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 1 start
Robbie Findley, F, Nottingham Forest - Started, played 90 minutes in Nottingham Forest's 4-0 loss to Leicester City in their FA Cup third-round replay on Tuesday. Findley missed a wide open goal in the early going, having a ball that deflected off the goalkeeper's hand fall in his path, only for him to touch it over the bar from point-blank range. Findley was not in the 18 for Nottingham Forest's 2-1 loss to West Ham in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 22 games, 13 starts, 5 goals
George John, D, West Ham - Not in the 18 for West Ham's 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest on Saturday. John completed his loan to West Ham but is still working his way toward match fitness after coming off the MLS offseason, according to West Ham's official website. SEASON: 0 games
Daniel Potts, D, West Ham - Not in the 18 for West Ham's 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest on Saturday. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts
Robbie Rogers, M, Leeds United - Not in the 18 for Leeds' 3-1 victory over Ipswich Town on Saturday. Rogers was approved for his UK work permit but the final paperwork for his visa had not been completed ahead of the weekend. Despite not meeting the prerequisites to automatically qualify for the work permit, Rogers was awarded one on the grounds that he had consistently been in the national team system since coming up in the youth ranks and that the probability of him staying in the national-team picture in the future was high, according to a source with knowledge of the appeal process. Rogers, who impressed on a trial at Leeds following the U.S. national team's November friendly against Slovenia and a training stint at German club Kaiserslautern, signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Leeds that will keep him at Elland Road through the 2013-14 season. SEASON: 0 games
Jonathan Spector, M/D, Birmingham City - Started, played 90 minutes in Birmingham's 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton in their FA Cup third-round replay on Wednesday. Spector also started and played 90 minutes in Birmingham's 3-0 victory over Watford in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 33 games, 33 starts
Mike Grella, F, Brentford - Not in the 18 for Brentford's 3-2 loss to Huddersfield Town on Saturday. SEASON: 16 games, 3 starts, 4 goals
Frank Simek, D, Carlisle United - Started, played 90 minutes in Carlisle's 1-1 draw with Walsall on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts
Anton Peterlin, M, Walsall - Started, played 71 minutes in Walsall's 1-1 draw with Carlisle United on Saturday. SEASON: 25 games, 19 starts
Jon-Paul Pittman, F, Oxford United - Started, played 90 minutes and scored the opening goal of Oxford's 2-2 draw with Hereford United on Saturday. Pittman has scored in three of his last four matches. SEASON: 16 games, 4 starts, 4 goals (4 games, 1 goal with Crawley Town)
Timmy Chandler, D, FC Nurnberg - Not in the 18 for Nurnberg's 2-0 victory over Hertha Berlin on Saturday. Chandler had to miss the match as part of his two-game suspension stemming from a red card he received on Dec. 10, but he will be eligible for Nurnberg's match against Hannover 96 this Friday. The missed match caps an odd stretch for Chandler, who inadvertently took out on-loan Los Angeles Galaxy and U.S. national team defender Omar Gonzalez in Nurnberg training with a tackle that caused a torn ACL, one that has forced the reigning MLS Defender of the Year to the sidelines for the next 7-to-9 months. SEASON: 19 games, 19 starts, 1 goal
Steve Cherundolo, D, Hannover 96 - Started, played 90 minutes in Hannover's 0-0 draw with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Saturday. SEASON: 16 games, 15 starts
Joe Gyau, M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - In the 18, did not play in Hoffenheim's 0-0 draw with Hannover 96 on Saturday. The game marked the first time Gyau, one of the more promising attacking players in the U.S. youth pipeline, made the matchday roster with the Hoffenheim first team. The 19-year-old winger has been with the club since 2009, and he has been performing for its U-23 side this season. SEASON: 0 games
Fabian Johnson, D/M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - In the 18, came on as a 66th-minute substitute in Hoffenheim's 0-0 draw with Hannover 96 on Saturday. SEASON: 17 games, 13 starts, 1 goal
Jermaine Jones, M, FC Schalke 04 - Not in the 18 for Schalke's 3-1 victory over VfB Stuttgart on Saturday. The match was the first of eight that Jones is suspended for after being disciplined for purposefully stomping on Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Marco Reus' already-injured foot in their meeting on Dec. 21. He left Schalke and joined the U.S. national team for its January camp as a result to maintain his fitness, and he was one of the top performers in the United States' 1-0 victory over Venezuela Saturday night. SEASON: 16 games, 12 starts
Alfredo Morales, D, Hertha Berlin - In the 18, did not play in Berlin's 2-0 loss to FC Nurnberg on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games
Daniel Williams, D/M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Started, played 90 minutes in Hoffenheim's 0-0 draw with Hannover 96 on Saturday. Injuries and other absences induced by the African Cup of Nations forced Williams, a defensive midfielder for the club, into a center back role for the game. SEASON: 15 games, 9 starts (1 game, 1 start with SC Freiburg)
David Yelldell, GK, Bayer Leverkusen - In the 18, did not play in Leverkusen's 3-2 victory over Mainz 05 on Sunday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 save, 4 goals allowed
Michael Bradley, M, Chievo Verona - Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Chievo's 2-2 draw with Lecce on Sunday. SEASON: 18 games, 17 starts
Quentin Westberg, GK, Evian Thonon Gaillard - In the 18, did not play in Evian's 2-0 victory over Valence in the Round of 32 of the Coupe de France on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games, 3 starts, 8 saves, 3 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Jozy Altidore, F, AZ Alkmaar - In the 18, came on as a 78th-minute substitute in AZ's 3-2 victory over Ajax in the Round of 16 of the KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) on Thursday. The match was a replay of the cup game that had to be halted because a fan raced from the stands and went after AZ's goalkeeper. As a result, the replay was played in front of a crowd comprised of children and corresponding chaperones only. Altidore was also in the 18 and came on as a 73rd-minute substitute in AZ's 1-1 draw with Ajax in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 28 games, 22 starts, 9 goals
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Sporting Lisbon - Started, played 90 minutes in Sporting's 1-1 draw with Moreirense in the group stage of the League Cup on Thursday. With one game remaining in the stage of the competition, Sporting can still qualify for the semifinals by beating Gil Vicente and having Rio Ave not win and finish with a better goal differential (both teams are even with each other). Onyewu also started and played 90 minutes in Sporting's 0-0 draw with Olhanense in league play on Monday. SEASON: 22 games, 22 starts, 3 goals
Sacha Kljestan, M, RSC Anderlecht - Started, played 90 minutes in Anderlecht's 1-0 victory over Kortrijk on Saturday. SEASON: 28 games, 28 starts, 3 goals
Alejandro Bedoya, M, Rangers FC - In the 18, did not play in Rangers' 1-1 draw with Aberdeen on Saturday. SEASON: 25 games, 19 starts, 4 goals (16 games, 15 starts, 4 goals with Orebro SK)
Carlos Bocanegra, D, Rangers FC - Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Rangers' 1-1 draw with Aberdeen on Saturday. SEASON: 23 games, 23 starts, 3 goals (1 game, 1 start with St. Etienne)
Dominic Cervi, GK, Celtic - Not in the 18 for Celtic's 2-0 victory over St. Mirren on Saturday. SEASON: 7 games, 7 starts, 37 saves, 8 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets (all with Greenock Morton)
Maurice Edu, M, Rangers FC - Started, played 90 minutes and scored the equalizing goal in Rangers' 1-1 draw with Aberdeen on Saturday. Edu's shot from the top of the penalty area took a deflection and lofted over the Aberdeen keeper to level the score four minutes after Aberdeen had gone ahead. SEASON: 28 games, 26 starts, 3 goals
DaMarcus Beasley, M, Puebla - Started, played 90 minutes in Puebla's 2-1 loss to Atlante on Sunday. SEASON: 3 games, 2 starts
Jonathan Bornstein, D, Tigres UANL - In the 18, did not play in Tigres' 2-1 loss to Toluca on Sunday. SEASON: 0 games
Edgar Castillo, D, Tijuana - Started, played 54 minutes in Tijuana's 2-0 victory over Chivas de Guadalajara on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games, 3 starts
Joe Corona, M/F, Tijuana - Not in the 18 for Tijuana's 2-0 victory over Chivas de Guadalajara on Saturday. Corona is currently with the U.S. Under-23 national team, which is finishing up its January camp with a pair of friendlies against clubs in Costa Rica. SEASON: 2 games
Michael Orozco Fiscal, D, San Luis - Started, played 90 minutes in San Luis' 2-0 loss to Morelia on Friday. SEASON: 3 games, 3 starts
Greg Garza, D/M, Tijuana - Not in the 18 for Tijuana's 2-0 victory over Chivas de Guadalajara on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game
Herculez Gomez, F, Santos Laguna - In the 18, came on as a 73rd-minute substitute in Santos Laguna's 1-0 victory over Jaguares on Saturday. SEASON: 2 games
Sonny Guadarrama, M, Atlante - Not in the 18 for Atlante's 2-1 victory over Puebla on Sunday. SEASON: 1 game
Jose Francisco Torres, M, Pachuca - Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Pachuca's 1-1 draw with Cruz Azul on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games, 3 starts