Expectations can be a cruel determination of success.
That’s the reality faced by Clint Dempsey, who came to Seattle amidst much fanfare in August with an eye on helping Sounders FC win its first MLS Cup.
Seattle fell short of those hopes, and while Dempsey hoped to have more than the one goal and one assist he had in 12 matches in the regular season and playoffs, he wasn’t displeased with his overall play in his return to Major League Soccer.
“Expectations are what everyone else have. I came in and worked hard and what will be will be. I’m always going to work hard. People can’t doubt my work ethic,” Dempsey said on Thursday after Seattle fell to the Portland Timbers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Playing in MLS for the first time since helping the New England Revolution to a second straight MLS Cup Final in 2005, Dempsey was rushed to action when he was signed on August 3. He was able to depend on his tremendous skill and fitness to contribute to a run of eight wins in nine matches for Seattle, but in joining the team after only a limited preseason with Tottenham, he found himself playing catch-up throughout his time with the Sounders.
Add to that international appearances with the U.S. National Team in World Cup qualifying matches and injuries to his hamstring and shoulder, and it was a trying first three months with Sounders FC.
“He came in with no preseason and trying to find his rhythm and trying to catch his game as well,” Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’ll have a much better season next year and he’ll be the player we know he is.”
In nine regular season appearances, Dempsey took 32 shots, averaging 3.83 shots in his six starts. By comparison, Lamar Neagle led Sounders FC with 61 shots in 30 regular season matches and Eddie Johnson had 51 attempts in 20 matches.
That culminated with a goal in the regular season finale and he added an assist in the Knockout Round against the Colorado Rapids just three days later. In three playoff matches he had 14 shots, but could not find the scoresheet.
The results weren’t up to par, but Dempsey was happy with how he was playing.
“The last few games felt good. Getting the goal against LA and the assist against Colorado, a lot of good chances last game and setting some people up as well,” he said. “I knew it was going to be difficult to adjust, me being in preseason and everybody else being in midseason form.”
In the offseason, Dempsey is likely to feature for the U.S. National Team in friendly matches against Scotland on November 15 and Austria on November 19 and mentioned the possibility of going on loan to Europe as well.
Whatever the offseason holds, though, he is optimistic that 2014 will much more closely resemble the output that he has grown accustomed to as one of the top players in American soccer.
“Next season, I’ll find my rhythm. I’m not worried. Wherever I’ve been, I’ve scored goals. I’ve been successful on every team that I’ve played for,” Dempsey said. “I’ll work hard in the off-season, maybe go on loan, we’ll have to wait and see. And I’ll be sharp for next season.”