STANFORD -- This just in: Captain America has a sense of humor.
Clint Dempsey, the face of the U.S. soccer team headed to Brazil for next month's World Cup, revealed a comedic side Sunday at Stanford when talking about the lack of reputations among American players.
"When you're on the field you don't have these conversations: 'Hey, do you know who I am?' " he said.
Back to the more sober captain, Dempsey added, "It would be difficult to not know some of the players on our team and what they have done on the international level but also on the club level."
The Americans' Group G opponents -- Ghana, Germany and Portugal -- have some of the world's best-known players. But their coaches probably are scribbling into the night to devise a strategy to stop America's main man.
The Texan joined the two-week training camp at Stanford on a scoring streak that has U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann giddy. Dempsey has eight goals and three assists in nine games this season for the Seattle Sounders FC.
He returned last summer from almost seven years in the English Premier League to join Seattle in one of the biggest coups in Major League Soccer history.
"Coming back and being a success is everything," former Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop said. "He is holding up his side of the bargain."
U.S. midfielder Brad Evans, Dempsey's teammate in Seattle, said everyone has noticed Dempsey's ramped-up play.
"They've seen the goals, they see the way he is playing," Evans said. "It's a different level. Even in training right now, it is a cut above the rest."
Evans and others say the 23 players who make the final roster cut by June 2 will lean on their captain.
"He's old enough, mature enough, he's experienced enough to have that confidence," Evans said.
Since 2004, Dempsey has scored 36 goals in 103 appearances for his country. He also scored 50 goals over six seasons in Fulham, a bona fide striker in what is considered the world's top league.
The soft-spoken Dempsey, who grew up in the way station of Nacogdoches, lets the praise wash away like an East Texas flash flood. He and goalkeeper Tim Howard are perhaps the players most guaranteed of going to Brazil. Yet, Dempsey talks as if he still has something to prove to make his third World Cup team.
"You have to stay hungry, treat it like it's your first one," he said. "It doesn't matter what you have done in the past."
Dempsey, 31, has made his time on a soccer field count since coming out of the elite Dallas Texans club and staring at Furman University in South Carolina.
The New England Revolution picked him eighth overall in the 2004 draft. Dempsey was named MLS rookie of the year, and helped the team to successive MLS Cup finals in 2005-06.
In 2007, Dempsey left for Fulham when the London club signed him for $4 million. He left the Cottagers for the elite club Tottenham Hotspur in 2012 but then jumped at the chance to play in Seattle.
However, the forward struggled to adjust to MLS last season. Instead of joining Klinsmann in a winter training camp, he returned to Fulham on loan.
"It was trying to get my body right," Dempsey said. "For some reason, I was breaking down.
"For me, I wanted to keep going. I didn't want there to be a lull."
No chance of finding a lull in Dempsey's game.
After 2½ months of the MLS season, the saying around Seattle could be, "In like Clint."
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.