Seattle Sounders star forward and US legend Clint Dempsey, who was recently cleared to return to training with his MLS club after missing time with an irregular heartbeat, won't be making his USMNT return in March.
According to a report by ESPN's Taylor Twellman ahead of Sunday's USA-Serbia match, head coach Bruce Arena indicated that he will not be calling up Dempsey for two crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers in March, instead insisting that Dempsey take care of his health and then "get games under his belt with Seattle."
"I asked Bruce Arena: 'Will Clint Dempsey be a part of those March qualifiers?" Twellman said in his on-air report on Sunday. "He said, 'Absolutely not.' He needs to take care of his health first and foremost, get games under his belt with Seattle. He'll address it in the summer, but for those March qualifiers, there will be no Clint Dempsey."
The 33-year-old Dempsey missed the stretch run of the Sounders' MLS Cup run last year after the heart condition was discovered in late August 2016 and he underwent a procedure to address it. Last week the Sounders confirmed Dempsey was cleared to participate in preseason training.
“He is healthy enough to train,” Sounders GM Lagerwey said last week. “That has been determined. But we’ve still got some mileposts we’ve got to hit along the way as we continue to progress him. I don’t want to set any expectations because we’ll either hit them or we won’t. There is no timetable. We’re not prepared to put any more structure on it than that.
“He’s a veteran player who hasn’t played a competitive match in six months. So there are real fitness concerns around him getting back into form and sharpness and doing so in a healthy manner.”
Dempsey's last appearance in a US jersey came in the Copa America Centenario third-place match against Colombia on June 25, 2016. He is currently second all-time in goals scored for the USA (52), just five behind Landon Donovan's record of 57.