TUKWILA, Wash. – It might seem like a distant memory these days, but as recently as a few months ago, Clint Dempsey’s future as a professional soccer player was hanging in the balance.
The Seattle Sounders forward was sidelined for the entire second half of last season and his team’s remarkable MLS Cup run after he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. And even when it was announced that he would be returning before the start of the 2017 season, whether or not he would recapture the form that made him one of the greatest US internationals of all time wasn’t exactly a foregone conclusion.
So far, though, Dempsey has made whatever preseason questions may have existed about his future seem downright silly. The 34-year-old leads the Sounders with nine goals in 18 games to go along with three assists and, ahead of Seattle’s home matchup against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday (4 pm ET | MLS LIVE), he’s currently in the midst of a torrid run of form that has seen him net five times in his last four MLS games.
“He’s been fantastic,” Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey told MLSsoccer.com following Seattle’s training session at Starfire Sports Complex on Friday. “He’s worked extremely hard and he’s earned it. He’s done everything we asked. And he’s been really helpful for both club and country.
“[His recovery and return] have gone about as well as anyone could have expected. I’m just happy for him, happy that he’s healthy, happy that he’s playing well and hopefully we’ll get more of the same [going forward].”
The recent surge has pulled Dempsey close to a couple of notable historical milestones. With 43 career goals for Seattle, Dempsey currently sits within five of breaking former Sounders forward Fredy Montero’s all-time franchise record of 47.
It’s also seemingly become a matter of time before he breaks Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT scoring record of 57, which he tied with a gorgeous bending free-kick golazo against Costa Rica in the semifinals of this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“It’s cool, you hear about it from people and it’s good to know that you’re doing well when you’re getting close to breaking any type of record,” Dempsey told reporters at Starfire on Wednesday. “That always feels good. But that doesn’t change how you play. You always go out there and try to score and try to create and [closing in on milestones] just lets me know that I’m doing things right.
“Hopefully I can keep playing for a few more years and play at a high level.”
The only question for Dempsey now is how much longer he can keep all of this up. The Sounders have a club option on Dempsey that they can exercise for 2018 following this season and, asked on Friday, Lagerwey didn’t elaborate on if the Texas native's standout 2017 has impacted his thought process as to whether the team would do that.
Should his current form persist, however, Dempsey might make that decision an easy one.
“He is the best guy at scoring goals that we have,” Lagerwey said. “It’s fun to watch him play because it hasn’t just been the number of goals, it’s been the quality of the goals, particularly of late. You’re just reminded of what a great player he is.”