By John Boyle
Clint Dempsey trained with the Seattle Sounders for the first time since the end of last season, joining his team a day before its season opener. Now the question is how much Dempsey will be able to do to help the Sounders in Saturday’s game against the defending MLS champions, Sporting Kansas City.
Dempsey, who spent most of the offseason in England playing on loan for Fulham, put in a full 90 minutes for the British Premier League club last weekend, then played another 90 for the U.S. national team Wednesday in a friendly against the Ukraine.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said Dempsey will be in uniform Saturday, though he wouldn’t say how much Dempsey would play.
“He’ll be in the 18 tomorrow for sure,” Schmid said, noting that Dempsey’s role could depend on how the game is going. In other words, if Dempsey starts the game on the bench and the Sounders are leading 2-0 in the second half, we may not see Dempsey on Saturday.
Dempsey said following Friday’s practice that he feels good and is ready to play in whatever role is asked of him: “Yeah, I feel like I can go tomorrow. Whatever that’s going to be depends on the manager and what’s going to be best for this team. So we’ll have to wait and see.”
Schmid also expects Dempsey to come in and make a more immediate impact than he did after joining the Sounders as one of the biggest signings in league history last summer.
“He was in good spirits.,” Schmid said. “A lot of things changed in the six, seven months. When he came here he was coming into a new situation, an unfamiliar situation, and now he’s coming back home, he’s coming into a familiar situation. He knows what the team’s like, he knows what the locker room is like, what this is all about. You can already see it in the comfort level. He banged away a couple of good goals in today’s training session, and I feel very confident in what he’s going to be able to give us tomorrow.
“He’s definitely fit… From that standpoint he’s ahead of where he was when he came to us last year, and that’s a good thing.”
A bit more from Dempsey:
Does this feel like a new team with so much offseason turnover?
“A little bit. Some new faces. I’d like to think that the squad has gotten stronger. We just have to wait and see, but it’s good to be back. The boys look like they’re in good shape, and today was fun.”
Thoughts on your loan with Fulham?
“For me, it was going over to get fitness. I wanted to end better with people inside the club, because it’s a club that gave me a start when I went to Europe and I had some good memories over there, so it was good to go over there and end on a good note as far as that was concerned. Like I said, it was good to get my fitness up and I was able to get a few games, 90 minutes and was able to play with the national team as well, get 90 minutes there, and I’m looking forward to the start of the season.”
What has the last week been like going from England to Cyprus and now Seattle?
“It’s been a lot of travel, but that’s what comes with it. But yeah, I’m excited to be back here. I was able to get in fairly early the other day, get some good sleep. It’s never fun to, what, fly four hours from Cyprus to Germany and then I think it was 10 hours from Germany to Seattle, but I feel good, feel rested and ready for tomorrow.”
Do you feel like you’ll need a bit of time to get used to so many new faces on Seattle’s roster?
“No, I feel good. Training went well today. I was able to get some goals. I’m looking forward to helping the team any way I can tomorrow. Yeah, there will be a little bit of an adjustment period maybe getting to know some of the new guys, getting everybody on the same page, but I’m feeling good, my fitness levels are right, and it’s about us having a really good season and pushing and trying to win the MLS Cup.”