Seattle Sounders general manager and president of soccer Garth Lagerwey is still “cautiously optimistic” that forward Clint Dempsey will be able to participate in preseason training, according to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle.
Dempsey missed the final 10 matches of the 2016 regular season while recovering from an irregular heartbeat. He returned to training briefly a few weeks after undergoing a procedure, but was ultimately shut down for the rest of the year in September and missed all of the team’s run to MLS Cup, despite practicing lightly leading into the final.
“Dempsey is participating now, he’s running,” Lagerwey told ESPN. “Will he be 90-minutes match fit at the start of training camp? No, but nor will many of our guys given how long they played [last season].
“We’re going to take it easy at the beginning, but we’ll ramp him back up slowly. You’ve got to be safe with him.”
United States men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena had mentioned that he hoped Dempsey would be able to partake in January camp this week in Los Angeles, but Arena remained optimistic about the future of the U.S.’ second all-time leading goalscorer, for both club and country.
“Dempsey hasn’t played soccer in six months,” said Lagerwey. “You don’t overcome that in a day or a week. You’ve got to get fit and play soccer and all those kinds of things. We’ll be carefully monitoring every step of the way in the process.”
As for whether Dempsey will be ready to start the 2017 MLS season, Lagerwey can’t say for certain.
“Sure, we’re hopeful, but honestly, I don’t know if we even control that,” Lagerwey said. “We are going to do our best to try and get him ready to play in a safe manner, and if it happens, great, and if it doesn’t, then we’ll be patient and wait as long as it takes.”
The Sounders open the regular season against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium on March 4 at 5:30 p.m. PT.