On Saturday, Sounders FC was a volcano ready to erupt. With 20 shots in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinal series with the Portland Timbers, Seattle was a threat to score throughout the match, but walked away trailing 2-1 heading into the second leg on Thursday at JELD-WEN Field.
At the center of that volcano was Clint Dempsey, whose game-high six shots were all dangerous opportunities that could have at any moment ignited Sounders FC. That is among the reasons Head Coach Sigi Schmid is optimistic heading down to Portland with the season on the line.
“He’s been good. He’s been sharp. He’s getting good looks,” said Schmid, rattling off the narrowly missed nature of all six of Dempsey’s shots. “One day, all those things are going to turn the other way. I feel sorry for the opponent when it does.”
Everywhere he’s gone, Dempsey has scored throughout his career, scoring 25 goals in 71 matches for the New England Revolution, 50 goals in 184 matches for Fulham and seven goals in 29 games for Tottenham. He has even added 36 goals in 101 caps with the U.S. National Team.
Continuing the trend of getting scoring chances against Portland in the second leg could mean an eruption of goals for Dempsey and the Sounders as they vie for a second straight appearance in the Western Conference Championship.
“I think that’s what we expect from Clint, creating chances. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they hit the bar and sometimes the keeper makes a really good save. But eventually if you hit the ball on target enough it’s going to go in,” said goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. “No matter how bad it is, it’s going to go in eventually.”
Fatigued by three matches in seven days, Dempsey and the Sounders had a much-needed rest leading up to the second leg on Thursday, something Schmid said is bound to help Dempsey get back in form.
“I think you’re going to see a guy pretty close to fitness next Thursday. This is a hard week,” Schmid said. “When you play three games you’re certainly have built a lot of fitness, so we just got to give him a chance to recover and I think you’ll see a fully fit guy on Thursday.”
Dempsey is eager for his first season with Sounders FC to continue and knows that his level of play on Thursday in the second leg against Portland will go a long way in determining just how much longer that season can extend.
“I’m happy to be here and looking forward to this game coming up and hopefully keep the season going because I don’t want it to end,” he said. “All it takes is one goal, and you’re back in the game. We have to come out and make sure we get that first goal.”
Kickoff for Thursday’s nationally televised match is scheduled for 8 pm PT on NBC Sports.