SEATTLE – After he missed his team’s last two matches due to a red-card suspension, the Seattle Sounders’ home tilt against Minnesota United on Sunday seemed like a logical opportunity for star forward Clint Dempsey to jump right back into the starting XI.
So, it was a bit of a surprise when the Sounders’ lineup came out an hour before kickoff and Dempsey’s name was listed, not as a starter, but on the bench as a substitute. Dempsey would eventually come on at the hour mark and assist on teammate Jordy Delem’s stoppage-time goal that sealed Seattle’s 3-1 victory – the team’s first win in league play in 2018.
After the game, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer explained his rationale for starting his Designated Player on the bench, saying the need to re-integrate right back Kelvin Leerdam and captain Ozzie Alonso back into the fold at the same time played into his thinking.
“It was a combination of trying to incorporate three players into the squad: Ozzie, Kelvin and Clint and trying to make good decisions, sound decisions for the best interest of the team,” Schmetzer said. “Clint had been off for a long time and sometimes when you’re off for a long time, you’re not as sharp.
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“Ozzie was going to come off the field – that was a medical decision, we’d already discussed that,” he added. “That’s one sub. Then you have Kelvin, who made it through 90 minutes – I wouldn’t say he played well through 90 minutes – but he made it through 90 minutes. Then you have Clint, who was another potential sub. That’s three [potential] subs and you don’t ever like to start the game knowing that you’re going to make three subs.”
Schmetzer also said that Dempsey’s propensity for scoring second-half goals in his career was another factor that led him to think the sparkplug substitute role would better suit the 35-year-old US national team stalwart, perhaps more than Leerdam or Alonso.
“If you look historically at Clint’s goals and shots taken, it’s very considerable -- he scores more and he shoots more in the second half,” Schmetzer said. “So what we wanted to do is try and run some of the sting out of the game and bring him on and have him be effective while trying to get Ozzie and Kelvin back on the field at the same time.”
Schmetzer added that it was clear from his conversation with Dempsey that he would have rather started the match, but he accepted the decision, “because he’s a team guy.”
“He gets grumpy a little bit but all of them do,” Schmetzer said. “None of these guys want to come off the field, they all want to play. They all want to play, they all want to contribute. That’s part of what I appreciate with the guys in that locker room. When you have guys that are like that, you win more games than you lose.”