The first three months in Seattle have proven difficult for Clint Dempsey to find his rhythm. International absences and injuries have limited his playing time with his new club, but as Sounders FC readies for its regular season finale and playoff run, Dempsey knows that now is the time.
“It’s been a lot of stops and starts. It’s been difficult to try and catch a rhythm,” Dempsey said. “I think every team has their ups and downs. You just have to keep fighting, keep grinding, and the stronger you are, the farther you’ll go.”
Though he has yet to register a goal or an assist, Seattle Head Coach Sigi Schmid said that is hardly cause for alarm as other game-changing signings have taken time to adapt to their new environs.
New York Red Bulls superstar Thierry Henry finished his first MLS season with two goals and three assists in 11 matches after coming to New York in a midseason signing in 2010. Similarly, Robbie Keane played in just four out of the LA Galaxy’s final 11 matches in 2011 after he joined the Galaxy in a blockbuster move.
Both have gone on to MVP-caliber years and Keane was instrumental in LA winning MLS Cup in 2011 even as he was still adjusting to his new club.
“I think most players who have come over midseason, generally that first half-season hasn’t been their best season,” Schmid said. “With all the adjustments and moving and not having a proper preseason, all that impacts it a little bit.”
Midfielder Brad Evans added that Dempsey’s teammates can shoulder some of the blame for Seattle’s newest superstar staying off the scoreboard through his first eight appearances with Sounders FC.
“We’ve all got to do a better job of getting him involved in the game and getting him in good positions, most importantly,” Evans said. “Getting him the ball when he needs it is going to be a very important aspect, but also being more dangerous in other parts of the field so that opponents have to worry about other spaces as well.”
Dempsey is no stranger to MLS and the rigors of a physical league. He played three seasons for the New England Revolution from 2004-2006 before jumping to England with Fulham after the 2006 MLS season. In that first stint, he had 25 goals and 14 assists in 71 regular season matches and helped the Revs to the MLS Cup final in 2005 and 2006.
“A lot of people find it difficult coming back to try and play in this league. You come in and adapt and it’s just a different style of play. I was used to it before and I’ll get used to it again,” Dempsey said. “It has been a transition, but I’m not worried about what will happen in the future. I know that I will catch my stride and I’ll do well. I’ve done well everywhere I’ve been.”
Dempsey is not as concerned about his personal statistics as he is about the team’s success on the field.
Along the way, Sounders FC has had its share of ups and downs, too. Starting with Dempsey’s third match, Seattle went on a five-match winning streak that included home victories over the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake, who are now first and second in the Western Conference. After two draws extended that streak to seven matches unbeaten, Seattle has since lost four straight and looking to get back on track before starting the playoffs next week.
“It takes just one game to be back on track. It takes one game to start to fall off. It doesn’t take much in this game for things to go up and down,” Dempsey said. “You’ve got to keep fighting, keep working hard and we’re hoping the next game is the game that gets our momentum going again.”