COLUMBUS, Ohio — Peace of mind arrived early Tuesday night, with the sight of Clint Dempsey galloping at a full sprint across the striped grass at Mapfre Stadium, his arms spread out like airplane wings.
For four days, the United States men’s national team players and their fans were forced to confront the possibility that they might not qualify for the 2018 World Cup. That previously unthinkable notion was made far more feasible after the Americans lost to Guatemala on Friday. Another loss in their rematch Tuesday would have all but stopped them dead in the semifinal round of the qualifying tournament.
But less than 12 minutes into the game, Dempsey dispelled that angst with a swift, clean strike, igniting a deafening swell of noise, sending rounds of projectiles and liquids spraying across the stands, and putting the United States on the path to a crushing 4-0 victory.
“You’ve got to look within yourself, man,” Dempsey said of the pressure. “How bad do you want it? How bad do you want to be going to the World Cup? How bad do you want to continue progressing the game in the States? You’ve got to put that on your shoulders, man. You got to represent your country with pride.”