With a player of Clint Dempsey’s quality, it doesn’t take long to adapt to new surroundings. It did not take long for him to gel with his Sounders FC teammates, nor to pay tribute to the raucous crowd at CenturyLink Field. The U.S. National Team captain had five second-half shots and scored the first goal of the match as Seattle bested the Portland Timbers for the second time in five days. Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin returned to MLS play with a 2-0 win after their incredible journey at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Dempsey, who had two goals to help the U.S. reach the Round of 16 for the second straight World Cup, made his return to CenturyLink amid much fanfare. That 64,207 were in attendance for his return in a nationally televised match, just hours following the World Cup final, put even more of a spotlight on the 31-year-old forward.
“It’s fun to be playing in front of a crowd like that, but it’s more fun when you win in front of a crowd like that,” Dempsey smiled. “It’s always great to play a part in helping the team win, but like I said it’s about the team. It’s a team effort and I thought we looked really good. I thought we put in a complete performance.”
Dempsey didn’t get a shot in the first half, but as Seattle made adjustments at halftime and took over the game offensively in the second half, it was Dempsey’s time to shine.
In a 16 minute stretch before he scored, Dempsey had five shots, culminating in his 71st minute goal, which was his second shot in a barrage on goal after a Marco Pappa free kick. Dempsey got a touch to the initial ball into the box. Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts stopped his shot, then got his feet to the put-back effort by Obafemi Martins. The ball was cleared to the top of the box where Gonzalo Pineda put it back into the danger area in front of the net and Dempsey put the redirect into the net for his ninth goal of the season in just 10 matches.
“I had some good looks in the second half and two very similar looks in terms of shots on goal that happened to go my way and it’s about having quick reactions,” said Dempsey, who had a touch on a headed effort from Zach Scott in the 59th minute. “I was frustrated not to get on the first one, but I was able to get the second look and make sure I was ready the second time and I was glad I was able to stay onside.”
Schmid said after the match that he only planned to play Dempsey between 65 and 70 minutes, but Dempsey instead turned in 90 minutes before giving way to Dylan Remick in stoppage time.
Dempsey got back to training with Seattle on Friday after some time away from the team following the World Cup. That gave him the opportunity to rest after a rigorous time with the U.S., but also allowed him to refocus as he got back into the Sounders.
“I try to go as much as I can,” Dempsey said. “I only had a week off so it’s not like I lost too much fitness and I felt good and I was glad to play a part in helping the team win. Like I said, I’m just excited to get back and play with this team and I thought we played well.”
Dempsey is fifth in MLS with nine goals. With the win, Sounders FC jumped to 12-4-2 on the season and has a seven point lead over D.C. United in the Supporters’ Shield standings.