TUKWILA, Wash. — Clint Dempsey is finally back in Seattle and ready to suit up in the Seattle Sounders’ season opener vs. Sporting Kansas City on Saturday (3 pm ET, NBCSN), and he’s sticking by his decision to spend the past two months on loan with Fulham.
Dempsey worked out with his Sounders teammates for the first time during the preseason on Friday, two days after logging 90 minutes for the US national team in a 2-0 loss to Ukraine in Cyprus.
It was the first glimpse of Dempsey back in the Emerald City since he left for England in early January.
“The big thing was to get my body right and get my fitness up after coming off some injuries,” Dempsey told reporters. “It was a good experience. I would have liked to have done better, would have liked to help that team out of their situation. I knew it was a tough position for them in the table.”
Dempsey’s loan coincided with a particularly rough patch for Fulham. Before Dempsey even had a chance to play, Fulham fired manager Martin Jol and replaced him with Rene Muelensteen. Results weren’t much better under the Dutchman, and he was replaced by Felix Magath a couple months later.
Meanwhile, Fulham dropped to the bottom of the EPL table, and Dempsey was unable to do much to stanch the bleeding. He finished scoreless in his seven Fulham appearances, and the Cottagers were winless when he was in the lineup.
Results aside, Dempsey at least felt he was able to leave Fulham on good terms after effectively forcing a transfer to Tottenham Hotspur in 2012.
“I wanted to end better with people inside the club because it’s a club that gave me my start when I went to Europe and I have some good memories,” Dempsey said. “It was good to go over there and end on a good note as far as that was concerned.”
With his loan now behind him, Dempsey seems ready for his next challenge. He’s not expected to start against the reigning MLS Cup champions because of his taxing week with the US national team, but he’s eager to contribute in any way possible.
“Yeah, there will be a little bit of an adjustment period, but my fitness levels are right and it’s about having a really good season,” he said.
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While admitting that it would have been nice to have Dempsey during preseason, the Sounders seem satisfied that the loan was not all for naught.
“When he first came in here [last season] he was coming into a new situation and unfamiliar situation, and now he’s coming back home,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said, adding that Dempsey seems well ahead of schedule fitness-wise. “He’s coming into a familiar situation, he knows what the team is like, what the locker room is like, what this is all about.
"You can already see it in the comfort. He banged away a few good goals in the training session. I feel very confident in what he’ll be able to give us tomorrow.”