Deuce is back.
Seattle Sounders and US national team attacker Clint Dempsey returned to game action Saturday, playing 30 minutes in the Sounders' preseason opener, a 1-1 Desert Diamond Friendly draw with the Portland Timbers in Tuscon, Arizona. He had been out since September after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat in August.
Dempsey flashed those typical foot skills, attempting to step over defenders and work his way into space with moments of individual brilliance. He was deployed as a withdrawn central shadow striker behind Will Bruin with Nicolas Lodeiro on the right side pinching in. Dempsey also doled out a few key passes to spring his flanking midfielders into space.
Will's got more worth reading in there, notably recent acquisition Harry Shipp being deployed successfully in a central attacking role (Word to Matt Doyle!), but perhaps the key information comes from the @SoundersBeat Twitter feed, in which head coach Brian Schmetzer is quoted summing up Dempsey's evening:
"His recovery is going as scheduled. That was 30 minutes...we couldn't give him anymore. Next game we'll ramp him up a little more. We'll have to get doctors' clearance. We're taking it very carefully."
Dempsey acknowledged postgame that it's "been a roller coaster" since last season's diagnosis, but was glad just to take the pitch:
"It's something I love to do, and I worked hard to get into a position to be back on the field. And now it's just being sharp, getting touches a little bit better, passes a little bit better. That'll come with games, and I look forward to that process and hopefully being ready for the start of the season."
Good to see the return underway after all the uncertainty last summer, and here's to hoping for a smooth, continual recovery toward the full 90. If you want to put Deuce to your own eye test, here's the tape: