LOS ANGELES: Jurgen Klinsmann paid tribute to US striker Clint Dempsey after his two-goal blast fired the Americans to an opening Gold Cup victory over Honduras.
Dempsey had been relieved of the US captaincy before the tournament by Klinsmann after he was suspended for tearing up a referee’s notebook during a US club match.
Klinsmann instead handed the captain’s armband to Michael Bradley, explaining he wanted Dempsey to focus solely on scoring goals as the US attempt to retain their Gold Cup crown.
The veteran Seattle striker repaid Klinsmann’s support with both goals in a 2-1 win on Tuesday that fired the Americans to the top of Group A.
Klinsmann said Dempsey’s performance had vindicated the captaincy decision.
“We made that decision and he was absolutely on board with it,” Klinsmann said.
“I was a striker myself, and when you go through those moments where he made a mistake and did something wrong, all you want to do is move on,” the World Cup winner said.
“As a striker you want to score. You live for that as a striker. You just want to put that ball in the net, which he did now two times … tonight. He’s in a good spirit and the atmosphere within the team is outstanding.
“It’s very positive and that’s what keeps a striker feeling right.”
Dempsey will now look to add to his goal-haul in the United States second match on Friday against Haiti at Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Dempsey said the captaincy decision had not affected his performance.
“I always approach the game the same, just go out and try to help my team win,” he said. “It’s the same situation in Seattle. I’m not the captain there. So I just enjoy playing, going out and helping the team win. That’s what I’ve always done.”