British soccer star is a Texan who looks to Heaven after each goal he scores

Clint Dempsey is one of two Americans ever to score in two World Cups. He's the only American to score an English Premier League hat trick. And he has a quiet ritual of a brother's eternal love.

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Easily 10-year-old Dempsey made the starting lineup for the

prestigious Longhorns Under-12 tournament squad – enduring the 3-hour, 20-minute drives to practice twice and three times a week – which cost the family $120 weekly in gas.

A recent Under-12 Texas Longhorn tournament squad

Tournaments in Houston, Tulsa, Kansas City and Orlando weren’t easy either. Texas youth soccer is an upper middle class phenomenon whose team parents – often upwardly mobile doctors, lawyers and status-conscious junior executives – fill pricy hotels and enjoy the best restaurants. Between games, moms in Prada and Gucci throng to upscale malls while dads in Adidas and Reebok put up fancy, logo-festooned pop-up tents and custom-made team flags on the sidelines for their young stars’ next match.

The Dempseys struggled just to get Clint to the events, writes Taylor. “His mother, Debbie, a nurse, worked every overtime shift available while Aubrey, a carpenter, sold his boat and collection of guns. The family cut their supermarket bills and on the special occasions they ate at a restaurant, it would be at McDonald’s or Taco Bell” – taking advantage of $1 Value Meals.

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On one tournament trip, at 2 a.m. on a 16-hour drive, his dad fell asleep at the wheel and flipped the car. “The only thing that saved us was that we landed on our wheels,” Clint remembers. “There’s always been these close calls. And it makes you put life in perspective.”

But just after he turned 12, Dempsey’s world turned upside down. Although the seventh grader had accepted skipping junior high football because of soccer, and dreamed of starring in the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup, his older sister, Jennifer, began excelling in tennis.

The family, already operating on a tight budget, decided to pull him out of the Longhorns so they could afford all the traveling for their

young tennis pro.“I was really upset and angry,” Dempsey recalls in his deep Texas drawl. “I had to go from playing club soccer to ‘recreational’ with a girl on my team. But the simple fact was, we couldn’t afford it.”

Not long afterward, he recalls for the Guardian’s Taylor, he was playing at a friend’s house when he was called home. Jennifer, 16, was in the hospital after collapsing with a brain aneurysm.

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Rob Kerby
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