When the Seattle Sounders loaded up on Major League Soccer veterans over the offseason, they assured themselves a season filled with reunions.
Already this season, goalkeeper Stefan Frei has faced his old team, Toronto FC; defender Chad Marshall has done the same with the Columbus Crew, and forward Kenny Cooper has done it with not only the New York Red Bulls, but also with FC Dallas — twice.
Another such homecoming will play out today, when Sounders designated player Clint Dempsey returns to New England, where his Major League Soccer career began a decade ago.
“It’s always great to go back to where you started,” Dempsey said. “I owe a lot to that organization. They picked me up in the draft and gave me the opportunity to jumpstart my career and through playing there allowed me to break into the national team, which allowed me to go overseas. I had good memories there. … It will be great to go back, but I will still be looking there to try and get points.” New England selected Dempsey with the eighth pick in the 2004 SuperDraft. He immediately made his mark as rookie of the year and went on to MLS Best XI honors in 2005 and 2006.
Dempsey recorded 25 goals and 14 assists in three seasons with the Revs. He helped New England to the MLS Cup final in 2005 and 2006 before taking his game to Europe.
“I enjoyed playing with all the players there: Andy Dorman, Steve Ralston, Shalrie Joseph, Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan, the list goes on and on, Matt Reis,” Dempsey said. “We had a really good foundation there, a good team. I thought we played a really good style, and I think that’s the reason why we managed to go so far.”
The current edition of the Revolution opened this season 0-2-1. But they have gone 3-0-1 over the last four matches to climb back among the leaders in the tightly contested Eastern Conference.
“They’re on a good run lately,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “They’re a team that plays with a lot of midfield options — a packed midfield — really only one forward up top. Lee Nguyen has been having a really good year for them; he’s been probably their most dangerous player game in and game out. But always it seems (Diego) Fagundez seems to have a good game against us, so we’ve got to make sure that we’re aware of him.”
The Sounders have ridden an MLS-high five-game winning streak to the top of the league standings. However, this is Seattle’s third game in nine days, and Schmid has indicated he may have to adjust his roster and planning for tired legs.
This also will be Seattle’s final match at full strength before losing one to three players to the pre-World Cup camp of the United States national team. Dempsey is considered a lock, while midfielder/defender Brad Evans seems likely, and defender DeAndre Yedlin also could be included when the USA roster is announced Monday.
“We have one more game left before people could be possibly going into that camp,” Dempsey said. “But that’s what we’re focusing on: just making sure you’re working hard in these games, keeping your form, keeping your fitness, and bringing that with you with the call up.”