KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Clint Dempsey said on Friday's pre-World Cup draw show on ESPN that he might have some news within a week about his offseason plans, but he wouldn’t comment further to the assembled media on the reports that he was the target of at least four English teams for a short-term loan.
That said, he certainly didn’t sound like a player who wanted to let his battle-torn body take a pounding in the Premier League instead of resting up and making sure he’s ready for the 2014 MLS season and next summer’s World Cup.
“I feel good,” the US national team captain told reporters at Friday’s World Cup draw party at Sporting Park. “It’s been frustrating having some of the injuries I’ve had.”
The Seattle Sounders star then went through his laundry list of ailments he’s suffered since returning to MLS this past summer, from a hamstring pull to a shoulder sprain to a calf strain as Seattle limped into the MLS Cup Playoffs and were blown out of the Western Conference semifinals by the Portland Timbers.
Dempsey appeared in only 12 games for Seattle including the regular season and playoffs, registering only one goal and one assist. He averaged just less than 77 minutes per game over that span.
In his estimation, he “pushed himself too hard” to readjust to the MLS game after his return to the league, and his focus this offseason is to make sure he’s fully fit for a jam-packed 2014 for both club and country.
That might mean a winter spent on the fields of the EPL. Or it might mean rest, rehab, and a trip to his own personal Cambodia.
“I’m working in the gym trying to make sure that my body is right so that I’m not going to be breaking down,” he said. “So I’ve just to do a better job of being smart about not pushing myself too hard.
“I think that’s kind of been happening because I got a late start coming into the league, not having a preseason, trying to play catch-up with everybody else and getting used to all the travel, getting used to playing on turf. I think just kind of took a toll on me, kind of wore me out. I kind of felt I was always playing catch-up, and just couldn’t get a good run of games.”
Juggling national team duty further complicated things, the former Fulham and Tottenham standout said. Every time he seemed to get on a good run of form for Seattle, call-ups to Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad set him back as far as adjusting and working his way back into the Sounders set-up.
Dempsey declined to comment on whether he'd make himself available for annual USMNT January camp, but with an offseason to get his body right, he said he’ll be able to hit the ground running when the Sounders reconvene in February and then start looking ahead to Brazil.
“I’ll make sure I’ll be more settled next season,” he said. “The season starts up in March and then I think I’m meeting up with the national team in May, so hopefully I’m fit, hopefully I’m playing well get selected and part of that team that’s going to the World Cup.”
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.