Sounders "pleased" but cautious as Clint Dempsey returns to full training

Clint Dempsey - Seattle Sounders - in training on day one of 2017 preseason

TUKWILA, Wash. – The Seattle Sounders still don’t know for sure if they’ll have the services of Clint Dempsey in 2017. But if Seattle’s first training session of the year at Starfire Sports Complex on Tuesday is any indication, things could be trending in the right direction for the star forward.

Sidelined since last August, when he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, Dempsey went through drills with the rest of his Sounders teammates on Tuesday. Following the session, Seattle general manager Garth Lagerwey confirmed to reporters that the 33-year-old US national team veteran has been medically cleared to participate in practice going forward.

“Clint has continued to make progress,” Lagerwey said. “We’ve been pleased with his progress. His attitude has been awesome, he’s worked really hard. We asked him to do a period of work individually in the offseason and he’s progressed to a point where he’s able to rejoin the team on a regular basis.”

Tuesday’s development would seem to bode well for Dempsey’s prospects of making a much-anticipated return to the field after the heart issue kept him sidelined for virtually all of the second half of last season and the entirety of Seattle’s subsequent MLS Cup run.

But Lagerwey also cautioned that there are still more hurdles that lie ahead before any definitive conclusion can be reached as to when that return to match action might take place.

“He is healthy enough to train,” Lagerwey said. “That has been determined. But we’ve still got some mileposts we’ve got to hit along the way as we continue to progress him. I don’t want to set any expectations because we’ll either hit them or we won’t. There is no timetable. We’re not prepared to put any more structure on it than that.

“He’s a veteran player who hasn’t played a competitive match in six months. So there are real fitness concerns around him getting back into form and sharpness and doing so in a healthy manner.”

In the meantime, Lagerwey says the next step will be seeing how Dempsey comes through the rest of Seattle’s training camp and preseason schedule. The Sounders kick off preseason play against the Portland Timbers in Tucson, Arizona on Feb. 4.

“I think, as a first step, we’re going to see how he does in preseason,” said Lagerwey. “We obviously have a number of games, a number of mileposts coming along the way.

“Once we see how does with those, we’ll figure out the regular season from there.”