By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
HOUSTON — Nacogdoches is an East Texas city of about 33,000 citizens.
The visitor’s bureau calls it “the Oldest Town in Texas,” and brags that it was the first city in the state to install a ceiling fan in a downtown drugstore.
If that isn’t enough, Nacogdoches also is home to Stephen F. Austin State University, the Texas Blueberry Festival, and the birthplace of U.S. national team captain and Seattle Sounders FC designated player Clint Dempsey.
Dempsey will return to his home state and play about 140 miles south of his hometown today when the Sounders visit the Houston Dynamo.
“I’ll probably be getting like 40 tickets,” he said. “Yeah, it’ll be great to see my family. It’s been three or four years since I’ve have gotten the opportunity to play a game in Houston.”
The last time Dempsey performed in Houston he was a state and national hero playing for the national team on its home soil.
The rooting interests might not be as clear tonight at BBVA Compass Stadium, where he will be playing for the visiting Sounders against home-standing Houston in a game important to the playoff hopes of each team.
The Dynamo holds the fifth and final playoff spot in the East, while the Sounders are tied for fifth in the West.
“I’m sure some people will be happy to see me, and some people will be looking forward to booing me — just like Toronto,” Dempsey said in reference to his Sounders debut. “So that’s what comes along with that. I think it’s fun. That’s part of the game that everyone has to deal with. If I was a Houston Dynamo fan, I would want the same thing; I would want my team to win. But I’m with the Seattle Sounders, and I am going to do everything I can to help this team accomplish our goal to win the MLS Cup.”
Dempsey made his Sounders debut off the bench last weekend in a 2-1 win at Toronto. He is expected to get his first start today, as forward Eddie Johnson is serving a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation, and forward Obafemi Martins is out because of an ankle injury and a family obligation. Midfielder Brad Evans also could be limited after playing in the USA’s victory at Bosnia on Wednesday.
“Our options up front are a little bit thin,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said after a training session Friday afternoon. “(Lamar) Neagle has played up there, so he pushes back up there. We’ve got Clint, obviously, who can play as that second forward, so that gives us two options there who are good options for us. … But then if we have to go to the bench and so forth, it’s a little thinner from that point on.”
The Houston Dynamo roster is jammed with players who — like Dempsey — have ties to their opponent’s club or region. Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall was born in SeaTac and attended Gig Harbor High School. Forward Brian Ching attended Gonzaga and played for the USL Sounders. Defender Mike Chabala played at the University of Washington from 2002-05. Defender Anthony Arena of Kenmore played for Sounders U-23 last season. Forward Cam Weaver attended Seattle University and played for the USL Sounders. And Houston coach Dominic Kinnear played for Seattle’s 1995 A-League champion.