Clint Dempsey - Seattle Sounders - against LA Galaxy
USA Today Sports

Sounders expect Nicolas Lodeiro to help unlock best of Clint Dempsey

TUKWILA, Wash. – If there’s a player for the Seattle Sounders who stands to benefit the most from the team’s acquisition of Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, forward Clint Dempsey is him.

Since the departure of former running mate Obafemi Martins to the Chinese Super League before the start of the regular season, Dempsey’s role in Seattle’s attack has been the subject of much debate, as he has yet to find his customary level of offensive production in 2016.

Enter Lodeiro, Seattle’s newly signed Designated Player known for his elite-level vision and creativity. The two only trained together one time before Seattle’s 1-1 draw against the LA Galaxy on Sunday, but in the game, they showed flashes of the type of chemistry the Sounders’ attack has struggled to establish for much of the season.

“It’s a work in progress,” Sounders interim coach Brian Schmetzer cautioned after Seattle’s practice on Wednesday. “It doesn’t happen right away. We’ve got to give a little bit of patience to them, but they’re both very smart and talented soccer players.”

As the rapport between his two DPs develops, Schmetzer says the hope is that with Lodeiro pulling the strings from the midfield, Dempsey will finally be able to get the consistent touches higher up the field that have proven elusive this season.

"We just need to fine-tune to make sure Clint and [Lodeiro] figure out the right spacing,” Schmetzer said after the LA match. “A couple of times I thought we could have done a better job in keeping Clint a little higher, which would be my preference. Get Clint closer to goal, because we're going to need to rely on Clint to score some goals.

"I think together Clint will work a little higher up the field. Clint leads the front line, Nicolas leads through the middle.”

Seattle (6-12-3) will need Lodeiro, Dempsey and the rest of their attack to refine that chemistry at an accelerated rate as they try to salvage their season and make a push for the playoffs over their final 14 games.

For the time being, Schmetzer said he has confidence that more team-oriented play will ultimately be the complement to Dempsey’s proven goal-scoring track record going forward.

“I might be a little biased, but he’s arguably the best player that this country has produced,” Schmetzer said. “He’s shown over the years that he can score goals. He has drive and determination.

“He’s just going to be the beneficiary of Lodeiro, and outside guys moving at the right time, and hopefully be the beneficiary of better team play, so he doesn’t feel that it’s all him. So he can just play free and play how he does. That’s what I want for him.”

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