TUKWILA, Wash. – Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey used to make up one half of arguably the most dynamic tag-team duo MLS has ever seen during his time playing with former Sounders teammate Obafemi Martins.
But with Martins now a member of the Chinese Super League following an unexpected preseason exit, the Sounders hope they finally have found the antidote to his departure in the form of the freshly established trio of Dempsey, Homegrown rookie Jordan Morris and newly signed Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro.
Coming off his second-career MLS hat trick in the Sounders’ 3-1 road blowout of Orlando City SC on Sunday, Dempsey gave a simple explanation for the catalyst behind the three-goal eruption while speaking with reporters after Seattle’s Thursday practice at Starfire Soccer Complex.
“Lodeiro,” Dempsey said. “Just having more quality in the attacking third. It just opens things up for us. He can find the third-man runners and people have to mark him, which leaves someone else open. I feel like that’s been a difference-maker for us."
Lodeiro’s influence as a facilitator has already been readily apparent in first two games with Seattle since signing as a Designated Player last month.
But if Sunday’s victory over Orlando City was any indication, Morris’s role as a third cog will prove similarly consequential if the Sounders plan on making a late-season playoff push. The 21-year-old assisted Dempsey on two of his three goals against Orlando, an unselfish display lauded by Dempsey both after the game and on Thursday.
“Certain relationships, like me and Oba, I feel like we were on the same page from the get-go,” Dempsey said. “Me and Jordan are getting there. He’s creating opportunities for himself, creating opportunities for others, which is great. It causes problems for the other team and opens up space for you.
“At the same time, he’s combining well. And it’s not only him finding me, I need to try to find more ways to find him as well.”
Sounders interim coach Brian Schmetzer said he was pleased with the strides the trio has taken on Thursday, making a particular note of the different array of skills Morris brings to the table compared to Martins.
“Jordan’s not Oba and Oba’s not Jordan,” Schmetzer said. “They bring different skill sets. Jordan might stretch the field, open up those little areas for Clint. I think Oba liked to be a little bit closer to Clint. They liked to pass the ball to each other, so it’s just a difference in the two personalities that makes it exciting and different. Oba and Jordan are just different players.
“What I’ve seen is more cohesion between Clint and Jordan and Nico. So that’s been good and I’ve been encouraged.”