Clint Dempsey won't play in the U.S. men's national soccer team's next two international games. But don't worry, the veteran's steely-eyed status as one of the team's leaders is not under attack.
Given the way Landon Donovan was unceremoniously booted from the World Cup roster, it's natural to be worried for Dempsey, too. But in this case, it's a sensible move for both Dempsey and the men's national team to swap out the 32-year-old in favor of some younger prospects in need of international time.
Dempsey has just finished a long season with the Seattle Sounders, which culminated in a playoff defeat. He's surely in need of the break -- especially when you consider all the international play he's accumulated through a World Cup last summer and this year's Gold Cup.
With the World Cup three years away, there's no need to put Dempsey through undue stress and fatigue when he could be catching his breath and recharging his batteries. And USA's opponents for these two games provide even more incentive: If the squad can't handle matches St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago -- which, in fairness, isn't a guarantee -- then there are plenty of problems to focus on that don't involve Dempsey.
Meanwhile, Dempsey isn't going to play forever. He's got one more World Cup left in him, and he'll be 35 -- well past his prime. For the good of the national team's future, it's important to get young prospects meaningful minutes on the national team roster to prepare them for a larger role in the future.
Dempsey understands that, and it's why Jurgen Klinsmann is going ahead with the move. Instead of Dempsey and fellow MLSer Brad Evans, the Portland Timbers' Darlington Nagbe and the New York Red Bulls' Matt Miazga will receive their first international invitations.
"At this point in time, I want to give the younger strikers a chance to prove themselves, and this is a good stage to do it," Klinsmann told ussoccer.com. "I communicated with Clint about it and it's all fine."
Remember: Klinsmann doesn't have the gentlest touch when it comes to handling his soccer players. If he was putting Dempsey on the outs, he wouldn't be so congenial about it.
Klinsmann's insistence is confirmation enough that Dempsey's spot on the national team roster is far from any sort of jeopardy.
These moves are about the future of U.S. soccer, which will have a hard time replacing Dempsey. These next couple games are a step toward finding an answer.
So Dempsey can get his rest and be ready for when we'll really need him. Based on the current state of the team, that circumstance is inevitable.
-- Follow Jonathan Crowl on Twitter @jonathancrowl.