SEATTLE – An intercontinental travel itinerary apparently won’t be enough to keep Clint Dempsey out of uniform for the Seattle Sounders season opener Saturday against defending MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City.
The US national team captain wasn’t due to arrive in town until Thursday afternoon, but Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid still said he expects Dempsey to feature in the nationally televised game at CenturyLink Field (3 pm ET; NBCSN).
“He’ll play a role for us,” Schmid told reporters following a training session at the stadium. “I have to talk to him, he lands today and we’ve gone back and forth on text a little bit. I want to see how he feels after the flight, how many minutes he can play. We’ll just have to go from there.”
How significant a part of the game plan Dempsey is capable of is a bit more of an open question. Just last weekend, he played 90 minutes for Fulham against Chelsea. He then joined the USMNT in Frankfurt, Germany, before heading to Cyprus for Wednesday’s game against Ukraine, when Dempsey played another 90 minutes.
That ended what can only be called a disappointing couple of months in which Dempsey failed to make much of an impact during a two-month loan to Fulham. It was a stretch in which he didn’t score a goal and couldn’t keep the Cottagers from sinking to the bottom of the EPL table. At times he found himself out of the lineup altogether.
He’ll rejoin the Sounders having missed virtually all of preseason training camp and with a reputation that has taken a bit of a blow, especially combined with his underwhelming one-goal, one-assist performance during his first season with Seattle.
Schmid, at least, feels Dempsey has gotten a bit of a raw deal.
“Nothing has changed with Clint,” Schmid said. “There’s a lot of pressure on him, and I think everyone should just back off a little bit and not put so much pressure on him.
“All of a sudden there’s this expectation that he’ll be this magic man every time he steps on the field. He doesn’t have to be a magic man every time he steps on the field, he has to be Clint Dempsey.”
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Making matters worse, Schmid said, is that none of Dempsey’s situations have set up particularly well.
“Right now, I think everyone has these super-high expectations, and it’s a little bit unfair,” the coach said. “He’s been in difficult situations, coming in here without a preseason and jumping into a MLS season in the middle of the year is difficult. Going to a team that’s fighting relegation is difficult, as well.
"Now he comes back here. With time, he’ll do well. We’ll get him ready for Jurgen [Klinsmann, USMNT coach], but more so than anything we’ll have him ready for Seattle.”