Dempsey back with U.S. soccer team for Cup qualifier in Guatemala

U.S. national team player Clint Dempsey speaks to the media after a practice session Monday, March 21, 2016 at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida.
U.S. national team player Clint Dempsey speaks to the media after a practice session Monday, March 21, 2016 at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida.

Clint Dempsey, America’s second-all-time leading scorer behind Landon Donovan, was back with the U.S. national team Monday morning as training began in Miami for a pair of upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala.

The Seattle Sounders forward had been left off the U.S. roster for qualifiers in November as coach Jurgen Klinsmann took a look at younger players.

“Having Clint Dempsey back is very, very important for us,” Klinsmann said. “He’s a tremendous goal scorer, and when we play teams like Guatemala, you need to figure out ways to score just one or two goals that make the difference. Clint is a guy that can get that done.”

Dempsey, 33, has scored five goals against Guatemala, more than any other U.S. player.

“It’s not really up to me,” Dempsey said when asked if he expected to be back. “It is but it isn’t. It is in that you have to keep working hard and playing. But it’s up to the coaching staff to make the decisions, and I’m happy to be a part of these important games. It’s always an honor to represent your country.”

The U.S. team will train in Miami through Wednesday and head to Guatemala City for the Friday night match at Estadio Mateo Flores (10 p.m., BeINSport), which is expecting a capacity crowd of 30,000. The Americans have a 21-match unbeaten streak against Guatemala, but are 1-0-5 against them on the road.

Four days later, the teams meet again in Columbus, Ohio (7 p.m., ESPN2).

“Our goal definitely for the two Guatemala fixtures is six points,” Klinsmann said. “We badly want to get the job done before the Copa America if possible.”

Another veteran player back with the team is Weston native Alejandro Bedoya, who was ill with a bad flu in November and was unable to play in the U.S. qualifiers. He is back in top form with French club Nantes, where he has scored four goals and had two assists in the past two months.

“We’re excited about this roster going into Guatemala because a couple of players are back in the picture who are healthy again, like Geoff Cameron and Alejandro Bedoya, which is very, very crucial for us,” Klinsmann said. “Some players for months have been playing at a very high level, like John Brooks, for example, and Fabian Johnson and Bobby Wood scoring goals in Germany. This is exciting because you want them to make a mark on their team.”

He also praised Omar Gonzalez, who has made a mark with Mexican club Pachuca after leaving the L.A. Galaxy.

Jermaine Jones will miss the game while serving a six-game suspension for a confrontation with a referee in last year’s MLS playoffs.

Tim Howard or Brad Guzan will start in goal. Howard, 37, is leaving English Premier League club Everton at the end of the season and signing with the Colorado Rapids. He has not started since late January. Guzan, 31, was benched by last-place Aston Villa for seven league games but has started the past four.

Related stories from Miami Herald