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Clint Dempsey feeling comfortable after "playing catch-up" in debut season with Seattle Sounders

TUKWILA, Wash. – All is right in Clint Dempsey’s world these days.

Coming off his hat trick in the Seattle Sounders’ thrilling 4-4 tie with the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Dempsey is tied for the league lead in goals scored with four even though he’s played just 213 minutes.

It’s a far cry from last year’s production, when he had just one goal in 651 regular-season minutes.

“I think it was tough for me playing catch-up,” Dempsey told reporters on Tuesday. “Doing preseason with Tottenham and joining a league where everybody was past midseason form. Adjusting to playing games and the travel and the turf and the toll it takes on you. I picked up a few injuries, and it seemed like I was always trying to climb a mountain to get things right.

“Now I feel good. I feel like I’m in a rhythm because of that fitness and feeling sharp and feeling strong I was able to come in here and to have more of an impact on games.”

Although Dempsey received a fair amount of criticism for spending most of his offseason on loan to Fulham, he credits that playing time with helping him hit the ground running once he joined the Sounders.

Whatever time was lost to build familiarity with his teammates by missing all of Seattle’s preseason seems to have been made up now.

“I feel like this season I’m getting more looks in the final third,” he said. “People are playing me in, where if you look at the games in the past I wasn’t really getting clear-cut chances in games and that was frustrating. Now I’m getting better looks, people are trying to find me more, and I’m able to get on the end of things and put them in the back of the net.”

The value of helping that process along is clearly recognized, as well.

“It’s a relief to see him hit his stride,” said Lamar Neagle, who picked up an assist on Dempsey’s second goal against the Timbers. “Scoring three goals is phenomenal for the team, but we’re starting to recognize where he needs the ball. That’s the most evident thing. He’s getting into the spaces and were’ finally figuring out where he’s comfortable.

“So when I beat my guy and come in, I see Clint acting like he’s coming in and then taking a step back and he’s wide open. He’s good at that, it’s something he’s done his whole career. It’s something that’s just a continuation of us playing together.”