By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
PORTLAND — Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid hoped to get 60 minutes out of midfielder Clint Dempsey on Saturday.
Fortunately for the Sounders, Dempsey had more than that in him, as his goals in the 24th, 85th and 87th minutes gave Seattle a 4-4 draw with the rival Portland Timbers while giving Dempsey the fifth hat trick in club history.
“It’s always good to score goals,” Dempsey said. “… The most important thing is points. We got a point today. And we’ve got to make sure we win our games at home — make it a fortress and get those three points that we need — because we need to make sure that we push up the table, because we have the quality on our side that that’s where we should be.”
Dempsey’s status for the match had been in question because he had played the full 90 minutes on Wednesday in the United States’ 2-2 friendly with Mexico in Glendale, Ariz.
Then he flew from Arizona to SeaTac Airport on Thursday and trained lightly with the Sounders on Friday before bussing down to Oregon.
“We figured he could give us at least 60 minutes,” Schmid said. “And I told him, ‘If you’re feeling tired, let me know.’ But he’s a leader, he wants to lead this team, he wants to show that last year was not the Clint Dempsey that we’re going to see this year. He wants to show people that he’s ready for the World Cup coming up, and I think he did that.”
Dempsey admits the travel was draining — noting that his decision might have been different even if the international match had been played on the East Coast. But his decision was to give it a go.
“I always like to play,” he said. “I wanted to go as long as I can. … At the end of day we were able to get the point. I was a little bit tired, but now I’m excited about getting a full week with the team training, and looking to the next game.”
Saturday at Providence Park, the Sounders’ first goal came from forward Kenny Cooper. The next three were Dempsey’s.
In the 24th minute, he took an Obafemi Martins pass in space at the top of the penalty area and beat Portland goalkeeper Andrew Weber. That one tied the match 2-2.
In the 85th minute, he was on the end of another Martins pass, and directed this one in from close range. That cut the Timbers’ lead to 4-3.
About two minutes later, he knocked home a penalty kick. That one tied the match — but only after a discussion with Gonzalo Pineda about who should take the kick.
“He was feeling confident to take it,” Dempsey said. “I was feeling confident to take it. Also, scoring two goals in the game, I was feeling like I was in a little bit of a rhythm. Credit to him for giving me the opportunity to go with that rhythm and build upon that confidence and get that hat trick. Maybe after the game I’ll get him a soda pop.”
Five games into this MLS season, Dempsey’s confidence is showing on the scoreboard. After recording one goal and one assist in 12 games with the Sounders last season, he already has four goals and one assist this season.
“You always feel good when you’re contributing: scoring goals or getting assists,” he said. “I’m in a good rhythm at the moment. It’s about continuing that form.”