With the addition of Peruvian striker Raul Ruidiaz and Will Bruin leading the team in goals, however, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer suddenly finds himself with more starting-caliber forwards than spots on the field. And for the first time since he signed with the Sounders back in 2013, Dempsey’s place in the starting XI is not a given.
Dempsey hasn’t started since Seattle’s 3-2 defeat to the Portland Timbers on June 30. He’s made three substitute appearances in five games since, sitting out the other two while working back from a groin injury. The Sounders host New York City FC on Sunday (5 pm ET | ESPN - full TV & streaming info)
“There’s just the squad rotation, it’s a lot of [different] things that we factor in,” Schmetzer told reporters after a recent training session. “At home, when you can be on the front foot, you don’t have to defend as much, does he come and give you good minutes? Sure. On the road, a little more conservative approach, that’s the way we might [handle] it.”
Having a surplus of forwards certainly qualifies as a good problem to have. But Dempsey is famously ruthlessly competitive and remains one of the Sounders' most proven and lethal finishers.
Would he really be accepting of a regular substitute role?
“Clint is a team guy,” Schmetzer said. “[He] wants the team to be successful. I think he’s still a member of the group we’ll need to rely on to help us win some more games. It’s going to get crowded. If you’re talking about Ruidiaz and Clint and Bruin and Ozzie [Alonso] coming back, Gustav [Svensson] coming back, Roman [Torres] coming back – those are going to be tough choices. But it’s good choices.
“Will and Deuce have done a great job [scoring] over their time here. You add another guy [Ruidiaz] to the mix, it’s always good news.”
It’s also an issue that may very well solve itself with more time, both on the training ground and in games.
While Dempsey has yet to establish a rhythm this season with just one goal in 902 minutes, he also hasn’t had a weapon as dynamic as Ruidiaz that can soak up attention from opposing defenses and open up space to get the chances he’s made a career out of finishing. The hope for Schmetzer is that the increased support Ruidiaz provides could lead to a spike in Dempsey’s production.
Bruin, meanwhile, brings a different skill-set to the table but has said he’s experienced and comfortable with a two-striker setup that could potentially materialize.
“It’s all just a matter of time,” said Schmetzer. “They’re all three very, very talented soccer players so the longer they’re on the field together, the more they get to know the things they like to do, where they want the ball, how they want to the ball, it’ll all come – it’ll come together pretty quickly.”