COLUMBUS, Ohio — Footballer Clint Dempsey was a solemn picture as he addressed reporters at a press conference here yesterday.
And his pain was not a lingering sting from the USA's defeat to Jamaica last Friday in the island capital. That is not to suggest that the hurt of that loss has subsided.
The USA midfielder/forward's agony was triggered as he reflected on the elaborate terrorist plot that saw hijacked passenger planes used as missiles to simultaneously attack iconic American landmarks, including the World Trade Centre in New York City. The death toll in New York alone was more than 3,000.
Dempsey, who is expected to figure in coach Juergen Kilnsmann's side for tonight's World Cup qualifier against Jamaica's Reggae Boyz at Columbus Crew Stadium, said on a day — September 11 — when the nation commemorates the disaster, his players will be using it as inspiration to face an enemy of another sort.
"It's something that affected all of us, and during that time we drew strengths from each other as a people and a nation... I watched in disbelief as it all unfolded on television and we had to keep telling ourselves that it all happened for a reason as we would all go crazy," said the Tottenham Hotspurs player.
"We will be using that experience as motivation as we play Jamaica, but we are aware that they are a good team and fought hard and deserved their win," Dempsey said as he spoke at a press conference at the Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel.
Dempsey, who scored in less than a minute after the first whistle in the shock 2-1 defeat to Jamaica in Kingston on Friday, urged his countrymen and teammates to be strong on a day of such national importance and should use the occasion to strike back at Jamaica in a game on which much hinges.
Security at the stadium, and its precincts, is expected to be at frenzied levels.
Dempsey, however, did not miss the opportunity to launch an attack on the quality of the pitch at Jamaica's premier venue, the National Stadium.
"We all played on the same field, but I'm sure they would want to play on a better field as well because when it's bumpy the ball is bouncing, it's going all over and the fans want to see better football as well," said Dempsey, who watched his goal cancelled by Rodolph Austin (23rd minute) and Luton Shelton (62nd).
"And while the Jamaicans played well, our (Americans) quality would show more on a better quality pitch and we are looking forward to show what we can do," he noted.
In tonight's match-up slated for a 8:00 pm (7:00 pm Jamaica) kick-off and in front of a sold out Columbus Crew Stadium, Dempsey said "there is no desperation" in the camp and "we are just excited about the challenge".
"We feel like we want to do something special... everybody is hungry and we are going out there to give it our all," he said.
While supporting coach Klinsmann's strong desire for a revenge win against Theodore Whitmore's party crashers, Dempsey suggested anything but a defeat could still be viewed positively.
"You have to be thinking maximum points, but when you get any point at all it's a positive and will help you going forward. But what we will be doing is concentrating on our game, trying to be positive and be the best that we can do," he ended.