Now, the question for the Sounders becomes whether the return of their franchise player can remedy the team’s attacking woes.
Seattle’s season-long offensive struggles persisted in Dempsey’s absence, as the Sounders netted just three times in the four games he was out of the lineup. The power outage makes Dempsey’s role in reversing those fortunes all the more critical, as Seattle (5-9-1, 16 points) currently sit just two points clear of the Houston Dynamo for last place in the ever-competitive Western Conference.
“He’s a competitive player and he’s a quality player,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said of Dempsey’s return following his team’s Monday practice. “When you add those two elements into your team, it’s a good thing.
“But one man can’t carry it by himself. He can certainly make a difference for our team because of his ability in front of the goal, but we need all the other people to work and we need to get him the ball in good places.”
Sounders forward Herculez Gomez echoed Schmid’s sentiment that it wouldn’t be fair or realistic to expect Dempsey’s return to singlehandedly act as any sort of instant cure-all.
But Gomez did say that Dempsey’s strong form with the national team could leave with him with a degree of confidence that he hopes will rub off on his Seattle teammates.
“I think more than anything right now is just that he’s a player who’s beaming with confidence,” Gomez said. “When goals don’t go in and games don’t go your way, you start lacking confidence. It’s natural. So when you bring in a player that just oozes that, it can only be a plus for you.”
The degree to which Dempsey’s national team form carries over to MLS play figures to be a potentially season-defining storyline for the Sounders in the coming weeks. As for his availability for Seattle’s next league game – a road fixture with Toronto FC on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE in US, TSN2 in Canada) – Schmid said he has yet to make that determination.
“The national team is very taxing both mentally and physically,” Schmid said. “When you look at a lot of players around the league – [Toronto midfielder] Michael Bradley broke down when he came back [from the national team] last year. That’s just the nature of the beast. So we have to evaluate where he’s at and that’s what we’ll do.”