Clint Dempsey spent the last week as far away from soccer as he could get. He spent time with his family and he spent time fishing, a stress-free time alone with his thoughts.
That time away was just what he needed to get refreshed for the second half of the MLS regular season. After captaining the U.S. National Team to its second consecutive appearance in the Round of 16 at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Dempsey returned to training with Sounders FC on Friday and started preparing to face the Portland Timbers on Sunday.
“It feels great. I’m glad to be back and I’m excited about getting started again,” Dempsey said after his first training session back at Starfire. “They performed so well and we just want to get back in the team and try to keep that going.”
Even after nearly two months away from the team, he didn’t miss a beat when he rejoined his teammates. He paired particularly well with his strike partner Obafemi Martins, who himself hasn’t played a match for Sounders FC in nearly a month because of a red card suspension, the World Cup break and a hamstring injury.
“His understanding was good. Oba and his understanding was like they had never been apart,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “It was good for him to get back. I just wanted him to come back into training and get his feet wet, so to speak. I thought it was a good day of training for him. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll make a decision.”
Dempsey scored two goals with the U.S. as it escaped the Group of Death with a 1-1-1 record before falling in the Round of 16 to Belgium. In scoring 29 seconds into the opening match against Ghana, he notched the fifth-fastest goal in World Cup history and became the first American to score in three World Cup tournaments.
Now back in Seattle, he will hardly have a soft landing, playing against Sounders FC’s biggest rivals in the Timbers on Sunday at a packed-to-the-rafters CenturyLink Field.
“I think it is exciting. It’s not too much of a drop-off in terms of that excitement that you experience during the World Cup,” Dempsey said. “It’s just about making sure that you manage that transition in the right way and that you are able to help the team and produce in any way possible.”
Last time out against the Timbers at Providence Park, Dempsey tallied a hat trick to lead Seattle back to a 4-4 draw back in April.
Even with just two days in training with the team, he feels prepared to meet the Timbers again, this time on home soil with a full complement of Seattle support behind him.
“I’m back. I want to play. It’s exciting,” Dempsey said. “Any time you can play in front of the fans that we have and play against our rivals […] you want to be a part of that. Hopefully I get to play a part.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm PT with national television coverage on ESPN2. Tickets are available by visiting SoundersFC.com or by calling 1-877-MLS-GOAL.