SEATTLE – It hasn’t exactly been the smoothest of years for Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey.
He was forced out of action for lengthy stretches of the season between a suspension for misconduct in the US Open Cup back in June and a stint with the US national team that also saw him suffer a hamstring injury following the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
But Dempsey was at his best when the Sounders needed him the most, scoring a first-half brace to lead Seattle to a 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Sunday evening at CenturyLink Field, ensuring that his side would make a playoff appearance for the seventh consecutive season.
“This is when you expect your players to show up,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said of his star forward after the game. “Clint showed he’s a player that can play for big moments.”
Forward partner Obafemi Martins, who tallied the assist on Seattle’s first goal with a pinpoint cross, aided Dempsey in his cause on Sunday. Martins was a catalyst for Seattle’s third goal as well, sending a blistering shot off the hands of Salt Lake ‘keeper Jeff Attinella that popped free, allowing Dempsey to swoop in for a rebound into an open net.
“Those two guys have been phenomenal, especially as a duo together,” Schmid said. “When they’re on their game, they’re going to find each other, they’re going to combine and I think our record is probably pretty good when they each get a point in the game.”
Added Seattle captain Brad Evans: “That’s why they’re DPs and why they play the way they do and why they score so many goals for us and have so many assists. There’s a reason why they’re on our team and why they get paid the big bucks.”
The Sounders now have a quick turnaround leading up to their playoff-opener on Wednesday – a home tilt with the defending champion LA Galaxy (10 pm ET, UniMás).
“[Seattle and LA] is what everyone wants to see,” said forward Chad Barrett. “It’s the intensity we play the game with. They have their three DPs, we have great depth, they have great depth. It’s Sigi vs. Bruce [Arena], there are so many matchups here. …It’s going to be a lot of physical play going on Wednesday. I can guarantee you that.”
LA have struggled on the road all season and are far from top form coming into Wednesday, having dropped their #DecisionDay matchup 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City. But the mighty Galaxy are still the defending MLS Cup champions and got the best of Seattle in the postseason last year, knocking them out in the Western Conference Finals.
“One of the things we talked about before the game is that our moment has to be now,” Schmid said. “It didn’t matter to us if it was LA or Portland or Vancouver or whatever. We wanted to be at home. Now it’s LA and so we want to take care of business on Wednesday and move forward.”