Clint Dempsey still key for Sounders as his pro career enters 15th year

Clint Dempsey huffs

SEATTLE – Clint Dempsey has a big season coming up.

There’s really no other way to put it as the Seattle Sounders star forward and Designated Player gears up for his 15th year as a professional, playing on a one-year contract extension he signed with the club after last season.

What happens after that, at this point, is anybody’s guess. Will the Sounders bring him back for another run in 2019? How much will he have left in the tank as an elite goal-scorer at 36, following years of wear and tear playing in the English Premier League, MLS and for the US national team?

Those are questions that will have to be answered somewhere down the line. For now, Dempsey says he’s just ready to get back to work in Seattle, coming off a 2017 season that saw him produce pretty much like he always has, to the tune of 12 goals and five assists in 2,276 minutes.

Clint Dempsey still key for Sounders as his pro career enters 15th year -

Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey, and friends | USA Today Sports Images

“It feels great. I’m excited. This is what it’s all about,” Dempsey told reporters at the Sounders’ media day at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday. “You have the preseason where you put in the work and when you get to play the actual games, you can be a kid again and have fun. So, I’m looking forward to the [games], looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to the season.”

If there were any questions as to the prominence of Dempsey’s role for the Sounders in 2018, they all went out in the window in the first leg of Seattle’s CONCACAF Champions League series against Salvadoran club Santa Tecla last week.

That match saw the Sounders lose Homegrown forward Jordan Morris for the season to a torn ACL. The injury leaves Seattle without one of its most dynamic attackers, and although general manager Garth Lagerwey has indicated a replacement signing is in the works, it’s Dempsey who will have to shoulder much of the load to start the season.

“I got to talk to [Morris] a little bit,” Dempsey said. “I know what it’s like to be out with injuries. You just have to try and find the positives and try and get your mind away from the game a little bit, I think. Once you get back on the road to recovery, every day you’re one day closer to being on your way back.

“I just encouraged him to stay positive and if there’s anything he needs, I’m here for him. But he has good people around him and he’ll be able to bounce back.”

“Deuce” stepped up in Thursday night’s Leg 2, bagging two assists as Seattle swept aside Santa Tecla 4-0 to book their place in the CCL quarterfinals, where they will face off with Mexican giants Chivas Guadalajara. Now the Rave Green kick off MLS play against expansion side LAFC on Sunday (5 pm ET | ESPN).

As they forge ahead without Morris, Dempsey said he feels confident in the attacking depth on Seattle’s roster, a group that still includes Will Bruin, Nicolas Lodeiro, Victor Rodriguez and newly-signed Norwegian playmaker Magnus Wolff Eikrem, one of Thursday’s standouts.

“Last year we came up short,” Dempsey said. “We wanted to win the MLS Cup and that’s something that was tough on the guys. You kind of use that as fuel to find a way to push harder. Maybe we weren’t pushing hard enough. So, in terms of things we were doing and trying to work on things as a team and try and make sure we’re a better team away from home, hopefully we can have a great year.”