TUKWILA, Wash. – Clint Dempsey knows as well as anybody that the balancing act that comes with shouldering a heavy load for both club and country can be a tricky one.
The Seattle Sounders and their star forward found that out the hard way last season after Dempsey picked up a hamstring injury while on US national team duty for the CONCACAF Gold Cup – a knock that kept him from full health during Seattle’s second-half playoff push.
Dempsey made his return to the practice field for Seattle this week following another standout run with the USMNT at the Copa America Centenario, and the Sounders’ next task is figuring out how to make sure that last year's scenario doesn’t repeat itself this season.
Dempsey spoke with the media for the first time since his return following Seattle’s Friday morning training session at Starfire Soccer Complex, and said his current physical condition is ahead of where it was at this point a season ago.
“I feel better right now than I did last year,” Dempsey said. “After I came back and played in a game I ended picking up an injury and it was difficult getting back in terms of feeling 100 percent as we pushed for the playoffs and stuff like that. But right now I feel good.”
Dempsey’s return to the fold comes at a time when the Sounders need him more than ever. Going into their home match-up with the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field on Saturday (3 pm ET; ESPN in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada), Seattle have the fewest goals scored in MLS this season with 14.
Dempsey is expected to be available for Seattle on Saturday after taking last weekend’s 1-1 road draw against Toronto FC off to recuperate.
“I’m looking forward to getting back here and making a push for the second part of the season,” Dempsey said. “At the end of the day, my approach doesn’t change. I just try to win wherever I’m at and try to help the team I play for accomplish the goals they want and try to win trophies.”
For his part, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said the Sounders' trainers and medical staff are trying to be vigilant in monitoring the 33-year-old Dempsey’s health in order to make sure the veteran is in a position to consistently contribute during the second half of the season.
“I think we’re taking steps [to keep him on the field] as much as possible,” Schmid said on Friday. “[Sounders Director of Performance & Sports Science] Dave Tenney is constantly talking to him and is in communication with him. That’s why we decided not to push early on so we sort of wanted a timetable that made sense for Clint and made sense to our staff and sports science people.
"Now it’s just a matter of trying to build on that.”