TUKWILA — An already impressive résumé improved and a nose made crooked by a Ghanaian shin, Clint Dempsey returned to Seattle and joined the Sounders at practice for the first time since captaining the U.S. national team in the 2014 World Cup.
“Nose is good, I can breathe now,” Dempsey said of the injury, which he suffered in America’s win over Ghana in their first game of the tournament. “A little crooked, but hey, good thing I’m married, right?”
Not only did Dempsey break his nose in that game, he also scored just 30 seconds into the eventual 2-1 victory, not only giving him the quickest goal in his country’s World Cup history, but also making him the first American to score in three consecutive World Cups, having also done so in 2006 and 2010.
“For me it was real special, because I never knew if I was going to play in one World Cup,” Dempsey said of his personal accomplishment. “I remember as a kid going to bed, that’s what I would pray about and dream about and hope that one day I could do that. And being able to relive that dream three times and being able to have been captain of the national team during a World Cup and in one of the most difficult groups, being able to be a part of that is special.
“So I’ve been blessed in terms of my international career, but also my club career, being able to play professionally, provide for my family, and like this weekend, being able to play in front of 67,000 fans at a home game is pretty exciting.”
And now after getting a week off to recharge, enjoy some family time, do a little fishing and appear on the Late Show with David Letterman, Dempsey is ready to return to action for a Sounders’ squad that did a lot more than just stay afloat with Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin playing in Brazil. With Dempsey and Yedlin missing six games, the Sounders went 4-1-1 to extend their lead atop the MLS standings, while also advancing to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup (though Yedlin played in Wednesday’s quarterfinal win over Portland).
“It feels great,” Dempsey said of practicing with his team Friday. “Glad to be back and excited about getting started again. I just want to say how great the guys have done since me and DeAndre have gone and just how well they’ve performed. We just want to get back on the team and try to keep that going.”
While Sounders coach Sigi Schmid wouldn’t say for sure what role Dempsey will play Sunday, both player and coach have dropped plenty of hints that he’ll be involved against Portland whether as a starter or off the bench. Schmid also said it won’t take any time at all for Dempsey and his teammates to get back in a rhythm despite the time he missed.
“His understanding was good,” Schmid said. “Oba (Martins) and his understanding was like they’d never been apart.”
While many assume that the 31-year-old Dempsey has played in his final World Cup, he won’t rule out a run at 2018, saying he hopes to “continue playing with the national team as long as possible.” He added that the 2016 Copa America, which will be played in the U.S. is a definite goal.
For now, however, Dempsey’s focus shifts away from international play and back to the Sounders, who signed him last summer hoping to finally get over the hump and win an MLS Cup. Another of Dempsey’s goals when he returned to the U.S. from England was to help grow the game domestically, and he sees the support given to the U.S. team — from the T.V. ratings to the packed viewing parties to the large contingent of U.S. fans in Brazil — as a sign of progress.
“It’s exciting to see how far it has come,” Dempsey said. “I remember when I was a young kid growing up in Nacogdoches, I used to get funny looks when I told people what I wanted to be when I grew up, so it’s exciting times and hopefully it continues moving in the right direction.”
The Sounders, in partnership with Special Olympics, will host an outdoor viewing party for Sunday’s World Cup final in Occidental Park. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the game between Germany and Argentina kicks off at noon. The all-ages event will be standing room only and feature a beer garden. Food and water will also be available for purchase with the proceeds going to Special Olympics… Schmid said forward Obafemi Martins, who missed last weekend’s game as well as Wednesday’s Open Cup game with a hamstring injury, will be available for Sunday’s game.