TUKWILA, Wash. – The Seattle Sounders were treated to a sight for sore eyes at their training session at Starfire Sports Complex on Friday morning. Star forward Clint Dempsey once again graced the practice field, following a strong run of form for the US national team at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and an appearance at Wednesday’s MLS All-Star game.
Dempsey’s return to the fold would be big news for the Sounders under any circumstances. He is, after all, tied for the team lead in goals, and is coming off a monster Gold Cup in which he led all players by scoring seven times.
However, it carries even more weight than usual at this juncture of the season. Seattle are currently mired in an offensive rut that has seen them score just twice in MLS play since his departure, falling from first to fifth in the Western Conference standings.
Speaking with reporters following his first practice back, Dempsey said he’s ready to tackle a hectic month of August that will be Seattle’s busiest of the season, even with the heavy minutes he logged with the national team.
“I just came off a busy month,” Dempsey said. “You just get through it. You grind, you do the [regeneration] properly, make sure your body’s right and make sure you’re ready to go. I’m looking forward to it."
“I’m ready to go," he continued. "Whatever role they want to put me in, in terms of how many minutes, it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to go out there and push and try to help the team win.”
The Sounders hope that Dempsey’s return is the first step in finally getting something resembling a full-strength squad back on the field. Seattle’s other top goal-scorer, Obafemi Martins, has been out of action since June as well with a strained adductor, but is gradually moving closer to a return to the lineup.
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“We’ve got some new blood that’s come in and we’ve got Oba getting close to full fitness,” Dempsey said. “I just think getting everybody together, having that competition for spots is going to make the team a little bit sharper.”
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid declined to divulge what role Dempsey will play in Seattle’s home rivalry matchup with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (10 pm ET, TSN1) but did note that the morale of the squad seemed to be boosted by the presence of one of his most vital attackers.
“It just lifts the mood of the whole group,” Schmid said. “There’s guys that you know you can give the ball to and you don’t have to worry about the ball getting lost again. [Dempsey] is that kind of player. It gives a team a sort of hub to the wheel sometimes, which is what you need.”