HOUSTON – Clint Dempsey will finally get his wish on Saturday night. Sort of.
When the US national team captain signed with the Seattle Sounders, a report surfaced that Dempsey's first choice was to come 140 miles south of his hometown in Nacogdoches, Texas, and play for the Houston Dynamo.
Since that report, Dynamo president Chris Canetti has stated publicly that the club was never made aware of that interest and that a potential Dempsey signing would have been a reach from a financial standpoint. But Houston fans will still get a chance to watch Dempsey at BBVA Compass Stadium when the Sounders visit on Saturday night (9 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
“He’s played at a high level for a long time and is arguably the best player to come out of the US," said Dempsey’s USMNT teammate and Dynamo captain Brad Davis. "I would’ve loved to have him on our team, but even if he’s not, I think it’s a fantastic move for the league.”
One reason why Dempsey's arrival resonates among American fans is his playing background, which has taken him from New England, to Old England and now to Seattle. However, his roots have remained firmly planted in the Lone Star State, evidenced by his tattoo of the state with a star for his hometown.
Saturday, he’ll return to play an MLS match in his home state for the first time since 2006 – when he came on as a substitute for the New England Revolution against the Dynamo in MLS Cup in Frisco, Texas, a game Houston won on penalty kicks to claim a title in their first season.
With the potential absences of fellow US international Eddie Johnson, who scored Wednesday for the Yanks against Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Obafemi Martins, whose injury last weekend prompted Dempsey’s debut against Toronto FC, Dempsey could get his first MLS start since 2006 in front of his home state fans.
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“He’s unpredictable. That’s always been his strength,” Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear said. “I think doing something that’s not normal at times is one of his biggest strengths. The good story is he’s coming back at a good age with the World Cup coming next year.”
Dempsey's MLS return promises to be a major draw for most Sounders away matches and the Dynamo admit a boost in ticket sales for this weekend's match-up partly due to Dempsey’s appearance.
But sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference in the midst of a playoff scramble, the Dynamo will be hoping to spoil Dempsey’s Texas homecoming, at least as far as the result.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.