Sounders dealing for Dempsey

When the U.S. national team hosted a World Cup qualifier in Seattle earlier this summer in front of a loud, passionate crowd, Sounders and U.S. forward Eddie Johnson said that, while he couldn’t name names, more than one of this national team teammates told him that they would like to someday play for the Sounders.

Well now we apparently know the identity of one of those players.

Clint Dempsey, the current U.S. team captain and one of the most accomplished soccer players this country has ever produced, is set to leave English Premier League club Tottenham and join the Sounders. The move was first reported by ESPNFC.com.

Neither club has yet confirmed the move, and Sounders general manager and minority owner Adrian Hanauer said he could not comment on the report. However, according to ProSoccerTalk.com, the Sounders will pay Tottenham a $9 million transfer fee and give Dempsey a four-year, $32 million deal that would be the second biggest in Major League Soccer history behind the deal that brought David Beckham to the L.A. Galaxy.

It’s a bold, expensive move that the Sounders hope will help them turn around what has been an up-and-down season. Seattle came into this season with MLS Cup aspirations, but instead have struggled with injuries and inconsistent play and currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference standings.

According to multiple reports, the Dempsey deal could be finalized and announced as soon as today with Dempsey being introduced in a press conference Monday.

News of the Dempsey transfer comes a day after the Sounders and Shalrie Joseph agreed to a new contract that meant the midfielder was no longer taking up one of the team’s designated player slots. The timing of that move only added to the speculation that the Sounders were in the market for a big-name acquisition before the transfer window closes next week, but few could have expected a signing as big as Demspey, who at 30 is still in his prime.

Dempsey, a member of the 2006 and 2010 World Cup teams, has scored 35 international goals, the second most in U.S. team history. Two seasons ago he scored 17 league goals for Fulham, the most ever by an American in the Premier League. His performance that year led to a transfer to Tottenham, a move that made Dempsey the highest-paid American soccer player in history. He scored seven goals in league play for Tottenham last season and 12 in all competitions.

So why would a player still in his prime what to leave a top club in one of the world’s best leagues for MLS? Well for starters, Tottenham is reportedly close to adding striker Roberto Soldado and possibly other attacking players who could make playing time scarce for Dempsey this season. Yet even if Dempsey were playing less, he would still make good money with Tottenham, which explains the reportedly massive salary he’ll receive in Seattle, where he will partner with Johnson and Obafemi Martins, Seattle’s big signing at the beginning of the season, to form what should be a formidable attack.

Dempsey may be leaving Europe, but he’ll still be playing in a soccer-mad city. While in Seattle for that June qualifier, he took a walk through downtown Seattle on a night when the Sounders had a home game and came away impressed with what will soon be his new home.

“I almost felt like I was in another country the other day when the Seattle Sounders game was on,” Dempsey said in June. “I was walking to get dinner, and as you walk past a bar, the TV is on and everyone was watching soccer, so for me that was awesome.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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