SEATTLE – Sooner or later, the Seattle Sounders hope, the shots will start falling for Clint Dempsey.
Unfortunately for the Dempsey and the Sounders, Saturday was not the day. The United States international managed to hit the crossbar twice and came close on several other attempts, but was unable to find the back of the net in the Sounders’ 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers in the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal.
“I was happy with the looks that I got and getting touches on the ball,” Dempsey said. “It just seemed like one of those nights where it wasn’t going to go in for me.”
Among Dempsey’s close calls was a first-half free kick from about 24 yards that Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was able to tip over the bar. A few minutes later, Dempsey nearly connected on another free kick from about 31 yards, but it skimmed off the crossbar.
In the second half, Dempsey had an open left-footed attempt from inside the penalty area that he hit just wide. The most painful miss, though, came in the 87th minute. Dempsey got a chance at free header from inside the penalty area that he skipped off the turf and seemed destined for the goal. Although it was ruled a goal kick, replays seemed to show that the shot hit off Timbers defender Futty Danso before caroming off the crossbar.
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When it was all said and done, Dempsey tied a season high with six shots.
“I think that’s what we expect from Clint, creating chances,” Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann said. “Sometimes they go in and sometimes they hit the bar. Sometimes the keeper makes a really good save. But eventually when you hit the ball on target enough, the ball is going to go in. No matter how bad it is, it’s going to go in eventually.
“We’re creating tons of good chances and I think the game was pretty exciting. Obviously the result was not what we wanted to see, but we’re creating a lot.”
After struggling through a hamstring injury and then a shoulder sprain, those ailments seem to be mostly behind him.
“I think you’re going to see a guy pretty close to fitness next Thursday,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “This is a hard week. When you play three games you’re certainly have built a lot of fitness, so we just got to give him a chance to recover and I think you’ll see a fully fit guy on Thursday.”