Over the past two weeks, Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey has reminded the country that he can still score goals at blazing pace and in incredible fashion. The United States captain has caught his stride for the first time since returning to MLS last August, scoring a club record five goals in the past two games, helping Sounders FC secure four crucial road points, while being named the League's Player of the Week on consecutive weeks.
“There were a lot of people saying he was out of form and that he’s not there right now. I think he’s put to rest a lot of those people,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said after Dempsey’s two goals led the charge for Seattle in a 3-2 win over FC Dallas on Saturday.
One week after his hat trick earned Seattle a 4-4 draw with the Portland Timbers, Dempsey netted an 85th minute goal to earn three points at Toyota Stadium over the league-leaders, giving him five very different goals in an eight-day stretch and a hand in a sixth, as his ball across the front of the goal in the 75th minute led to an own goal.
Last week against Portland, he scored on the run in the first half, receiving the ball near the top of the box and beating the goalkeeper 1v1. In the second half, he scored a scrappy goal in the box, then on a penalty.
This week, he got things started with a 30-yard free kick that eluded the reach of Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz, catching the bottom of the crossbar and bouncing across the line to even the score in the 22nd minute.
“Well, I'm always trying to take free kicks. I'm a little bit selfish,” Dempsey laughed. “We work on them in training, and we've got a lot of guys that are good at taking them. I felt confident to take it and I hit a good one, and lucky for me, the linesman was there to see the ball go behind the line.”
In the 75th minute with Seattle trailing 2-1, Sounders FC equalized on a fortunate bounce when Marco Pappas sent a long cross to Dempsey on the right side. The native of Nacogdoches, Tex., cut the ball back across the box toward the far post, where Obafemi Martins was waiting to either score on a tap-in or clean up any rebound left by Seitz. However, Dallas defender Stephen Keel got a piece of the cross in an attempt to clear it and instead put it into the open side of the net for an own goal.
“I was just trying to hit the ball far post. You always have a chance there, whether the keeper makes the save and pushes it to one of your players or there’s a player that happens to be there to tap it in,” Dempsey said. “It still feels good to play a part in creating the goal.”
Finally, he netted the late game-winner on a great run of possession by Seattle, finishing off a lengthy passing sequence to score in the 85th minute for his league-leading sixth goal of the season and giving him seven goals in his last five MLS matches, dating back to the regular season finale last year.
“It was a good ball played by Oba to me. I had a chance to take the shot, but it looked like it was a little bit of a tough angle and I saw Chad open, so I thought I’d play him and give him a chance because I thought he’d have more of a clear shot at goal and could do something with it,” Dempsey said. “When I played it to him, they really slid over and left that gap in the middle for him to play the ball back. That was great vision by him to pick me out and I just tried to keep the ball down. It went up on me a little bit, but being that close to goal, I just had to get a touch on it and I did.”
Even with his recent run of untouchable form, though, Dempsey knows there is still another level for him to reach – a haunting thought for his future league opponents, but encouraging for fans of Sounders FC and the U.S. National Team, who will start the final build-up to the World Cup with three send-off friendlies next month.
“You can always improve, but I’m feeling good. We have good staff that keeps the players fresh,” Dempsey said. “I’m feeling like I’m in a good rhythm. I’m just trying to continue building on that going into camp on May 15, but my focus is with Seattle and trying to help this team do the best that they can.”