By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
TUKWILA — Being a grand marshal of the Seafair Torchlight Parade isn’t just one more honor for Clint Dempsey, the United States national team captain and Seattle Sounders goals leader.
It’s also a bonding experience for the native Texan and his family with their new community. And on Friday, Dempsey even volunteered that bond has grown strong enough where he hopes to remain a Sounder beyond the length of his current contract.
“I have three kids and two of them are involved in the school system,” Dempsey said. “Being able to live here with my family, have them in the schools here, be a part of some of the things that we do here in the community, you feel more attached, more involved, more a part of it. My family loves it here. We want to stay here as long as possible. But we also look forward to at least two more years after this season of being here, and hopefully more.”
Dempsey, 31, has been a Sounder for just under a year. He joined the club Aug. 3, 2013, after seven years playing in England. He recorded one goal and one assist over 12 regular-season and playoff appearances. This season, he is the club leader with nine goals, despite missing six games from May to July due to World Cup duty in Brazil.
Now he’s back. And for all the honors he has received, including a post-World Cup phone call with the president, Dempsey has never before been featured in a parade — although his sisters have.
“They were always like in twirling and stuff and they would do a little twirl thing as they were walking down the streets in like Nacogdoches (Texas),” Dempsey said. “I remember as a kid going and watching them perform. … I had good memories as a kid of that. So I’m looking forward to seeing what this fair will be like. I’m sure it’s bigger than Nacogdoches.”
That’s a safe bet. Nacogdoches is an East Texas city of around 35,000 people, while Seafair estimates 150,000 people will attend its parade, which begins at 7:30 p.m.
Dempsey will share the grand marshal honor with USA and Sounders teammate DeAndre Yedlin, a Seattle native who remembers watching the Blue Angels and the hydroplane races and the parade with his family.
“I’m a Seattle kid, so anytime I can take part in a Seattle event like this, it’s great for me,” Yedlin said. “I went as a kid, so it will be exciting now to be in the parade and see what it’s like from that point of view.”
Yedlin, 21, was one of the breakthrough players of the World Cup, and since returning he has been the subject of transfer speculation. And as his international profile has grown, so has his celebrity within his hometown.
“I think anybody who would have played on the World Cup team would have got that,” he said. “I’m doing pretty well with it. … I think it’s pretty cool, because I know when I was a little kid I looked at a lot of other people in that way, so it’s cool to be on the other end of that. I’m having a good time with it, enjoying the ride.”
That’s good, coach Sigi Schmid said, because the popularity of the Sounders in Seattle also makes its players local celebrities in a way that doesn’t happen in most Major League Soccer cities.
“They’re well recognized in the community,” Schmid said. “So I think we’re maybe a greater part of the sports fabric in this city than sometimes in L.A. (where) you feel like even though the Galaxy has done well and has a lot of notoriety to it, sometimes you feel you get lost in the fabric between the Dodgers and the Lakers and the Kings and all that other stuff. Here, I think the Sounders are very integrated into the fabric of sports in this city.”