It might not have gone exactly as planned, but the Seattle Sounders got a much-needed road win on the same night Clint Dempsey was reintroduced to Major League Soccer.
The 2-1 victory against Toronto FC on Saturday was the Sounders’ third straight victory, moved them into playoff position and halted a three-game losing road losing streak. And although Dempsey didn’t find a way to put his name on the score sheet, the points took precedence.
“This is the way that we wanted to be,” said midfielder Mauro Rosales, who scored the game’s opening goal. “It’s something that we have worked very hard to be here. Getting points at this part of the year is really, really important. We have a few games in hand and we need these points.”
As good as the win was, the big story was clearly Dempsey’s first match in rave green. After joining the team a week ago and immediately missing a training session with a virus, Dempsey was expected to come off the bench against the Reds.
His debut came a bit earlier than expected, though. Obafemi Martins was forced out of the game with a left ankle injury in the 34th minute, and Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid decided to test Dempsey’s fitness with what proved to be a nearly 60-minute shift.
“We told him when he went in that the timing when it happened it was such that I didn’t want to bring someone else on because then I would have to make another sub,” Schmid said. “I just told Clint to manage his way through those 15 minutes, ‘You didn’t really get a proper warm-up, make sure you don’t pull anything,’ and then right away he ended up having to make that 70-yard run where he gets in almost with Eddie [Johnson]. But he managed his way through, he’s a veteran player and then he was fine for the second half.”
Dempsey’s best chance to get on the scoreboard came on that chance with Johnson. Although Dempsey appeared to have a clear lane in front of him, Johnson’s pass was just a little behind and the Toronto FC defense was able to shut down the opportunity.
Despite some obvious rust, Dempsey still managed to squeeze off a team-high five shots, would have had a glorious chance at a 1-on-1 breakaway if not for a questionable offside flag and showed some individual moments of ball-handling brilliance.
Now that his debut is out of the way, the man they call Deuce seems happy just to get back into the swing of things.
“There has been a lot of talk, a lot of speculation, a lot of media stuff for me but what I enjoy is being on the field and playing,” Dempsey said. “It’s what I dreamed about as a kid, being a professional soccer player, and to be able to do that when you are on the field it is home. So it was good to get on the field and get some touches, mix it up with the boys and to get familiar with this league again.”