TUKWILA, Wash. – A veteran of the English Premier League and the United States national team, heated rivalries are nothing new to Clint Dempsey.
But even Dempsey has never experienced anything quite like what will greet him when the Seattle Sounders host the Portland Timbers in front of a crowd that will surpass 66,500 people on Sunday (10 pm ET, ESPN2). Of course, Dempsey has played on the world’s biggest stages and in front of bigger crowds, but it’s almost always been as a visitor.
“I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when the whole stadium is completely packed and they are behind us,” said Dempsey, who likened his introduction in front of about 40,000 to a movie. “We’ll feed off that energy and we’ll make sure we give everything we have to let them go home happy.”
By the sound of it, Dempsey has already been brought up to speed on just how important this rivalry is in the Pacific Northwest. Eddie Johnson says the longtime friends have discussed the rivalry often and that it was one of the things Dempsey was made keenly aware of even before seriously considering a move to Seattle.
Dempsey’s family has had a chance to experience some of that passion as well, albeit in a much smaller dose while sitting in the away section for last week’s game against the Houston Dynamo.
“They supported their team the whole way through, even when we were losing 3-1,” Dempsey said about what his family told him about the visiting support. “That’s priceless. That’s real fans, and we have to pay them back for that.
“It’s great, it shows they’re passionate, that they’re really behind this team. We want to do well here and we have to start getting results and put ourselves in position to get into the playoffs.”
By his own admission, the first couple games have not gone quite as Dempsey had hoped. Despite several scoring chances in each of his first two appearances, Dempsey has yet to find the back of the net.
He said he’d like that to change this weekend. Johnson seems to think it’s a situation perfectly tailored for his new teammate.
“He’s a big player, he shows up in big games,” Johnson said. “For him it will be a great game to open up his account.”