SEATTLE – Clint Dempsey has already scored goals for both club and country to start his 2016 season. But the Seattle Sounders’ franchise player is also in the midst of an adjustment period.
It started with the loss of his partner-in-crime, two-time team MVP Obafemi Martins – who departed Seattle to join Shanghai Greenland Shenhua of the Chinese Super League before the start of the regular season, breaking up arguably the most dynamic forward duo MLS has ever seen.
Since then, Dempsey’s role in Seattle’s new 4-3-3 formation has yet to be concretely defined. He was deployed as a wide forward for the Sounders’ first three games of the season and a central midfielder for their last two. Part of it, Dempsey says, is the natural acclimation process that comes with playing without Martins and figuring out where he best fits in Seattle’s new system.
“I think we’re still getting used to each other. We’re still trying to figure out the best way that we’re going to play,” he said after Seattle’s 1-0 victory over Montreal on April 2. “But it also comes with confidence too.”
Dempsey has also said he’s not too concerned with where he lines up, as long as he’s getting enough touches in the attacking third to tangibly impact the game. But so far, the Sounders have struggled to get him those touches.
Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid says the next step for his team is figure out how to find Dempsey consistently higher up the field, where he is most dangerous.
“We want [Dempsey] higher up the field a little bit more because I want him closer to goal,” Schmid said after Seattle’s Thursday practice. “He’s certainly getting touches, which I know is important for Clint as well, to feel like he’s part of the game and the rhythm of the game. Now, we just have to be better about getting him the ball at higher parts of the field.”
Dempsey isn’t the only Sounder still trying to find his way as the team works through the early-season tactical tinkering. Seattle’s attack has struggled collectively en route to a 1-3-1 start to the season.
As they gear up for this Saturday’s home matchup with the Philadelphia Union (10 pm ET, MLS Live), the Sounders hope any adjustments to get their star goalscorer more dangerous touches will finally come to fruition on the field.
“It’s good to get touches,” Dempsey said Thursday. “I try to play in those pockets, get behind the midfielders and in front of their backline, try to get on the half-turn and put people in positions where we can build in the attack.
“We still need to do a better job of creating chances. Hopefully we’ll start doing that and we’ll start scoring more goals.”