There’s a certain boost a team gets when a high-caliber player is added to the roster.
On Saturday, Sounders FC got that boost with the announcement that it had signed U.S. National Team captain Clint Dempsey, unveiling him as its third Designated Player in front of a crowd of 39,360 at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle was energized from the start with two early first-half goals and blasted FC Dallas 3-0 to extend the home unbeaten streak to nine straight MLS matches.
“You always want to put in a good performance when you sign a big name player and know that everybody’s putting in the work,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “Nobody wants their spot to be taken on the field but I think it was a reward for the fans. They came out early; they wanted to see the big presentation and we got on them early tonight.”
The reaction from the team goes far beyond the lift it gave the players on the field in the match against Dallas.
Dempsey is widely considered the best player in American soccer today. After helping the New England Revolution to two straight MLS Cup finals appearances in 2005 and 2006, he moved to England, where he developed into one of the Premier League’s top scorers in the 2011-12 season, when he netted 17 goals for Fulham.
Last year, he had seven goals and six assists for Tottenham in his first year with the London club, helping them finish fifth in the Premier League and reach the Europa League quarterfinals.
Adding a player of that ilk in the prime of his career as he is striving to lead the U.S. National Team to the 2014 FIFA World Cup came as a bit of a surprise to his new teammates.
“It’s crazy. We’re really excited to have him here,” All-Star and U.S. U-20 defender DeAndre Yedlin said. “It’s going to be a really fun experience for him and for the whole team.”
In a year that Sounders FC already went through adding a pair of players with stellar careers abroad in Djimi Traore and Obafemi Martins, the addition of Dempsey becomes a cornerstone moment for the club.
Traore came in to the team in preseason while Martins was added after the season started, quickly integrating with his new teammates. He said that while Dempsey will create more competition for playing time, his benefit to players like himself, Eddie Johnson and Lamar Neagle is immeasurable.
“Dempsey’s a good player so he’s going to be good for me and Eddie and Lamar as well and the other players because we need good players on the team,” Martins said. “He’s welcome and I hope he’s going to do well here.”
Even goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who also started his European career at Fulham but never shared the field with Dempsey in England, was wide-eyed at the club’s newest addition.
“It’s unbelievable to get a player of that quality who is still 30,” said goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.
The avid outdoorsman then added with a smile, “And I have a new fishing buddy, so I’m excited.”
Dempsey will begin training with Sounders FC on Tuesday. Head Coach Sigi Schmid indicated after the match that he should be available when they face Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday.