TUKWILA, Wash. — “Cautiously optimistic.”
That’s the phrase Seattle Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey used to describe the possibility of forward Clint Dempsey returning to game action this season after Dempsey trained with the club for the first time Wednesday since undergoing a procedure to address some of the issues of an irregular heartbeat.
Lagerwey said Dempsey underwent the procedure last week and returned to Seattle on Monday, but the Sounders’ GM was unable to disclose anything specific about the procedure because of medical privacy issues.
But, Lagerwey said, the organization is following a protocol for Dempsey’s recovery and is in constant contact with Dempsey’s doctors.
“Dempsey has been cleared to return to training, to exercise, but he’s not been medically cleared to play yet,” said Lagerwey, who added there is no timetable for a potential return to a competitive match. “When Clint feels better and the doctors consider it safe, then we will consider his return to play.
“You can’t just say, ‘Clint’s important to us.’ You have to mean it. And that means Clint’s health comes first.”
The Sounders have not won in the three matches Dempsey has missed (0-1-2) after winning three straight before his departure. He is the team’s second-leading goal scorer this season and had five tallies in those three wins prior to his diagnosis.
Seattle will battle the Vancouver Whitecaps this Saturday at CenturyLink Field (1 p.m. PT; JOEtv, Univision-Seattle, ROOT Sports outside Seattle, KIRO 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM) as it looks to take down a Cascadia rival and close in on the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With seven matches remaining, the Sounders are six points out.
Dempsey’s return to the team, his inability to play competitively notwithstanding, palpably boosted the spirits of his teammates and coaching staff at a time when it is very much needed.
“[Dempsey’s return] lifts the mood,” said Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer. “It was similar to Roman [Torres]. As Roman was coming back, you could feel that the morale was higher.”
Lagerwey said Dempsey has seemed cheerful and positive and has had a good attitude about being back with the team. He performed drills earlier in practice before getting some light jogging in at the end.
And while he won’t be out there with his teammates on Saturday, it’s business as usual for the coaching staff as they prepare for the Whitecaps.
“For us, it’s the same,” Schmetzer said. “Clint’s been gone for a few weeks. It’s just status quo, we’re moving forward with the group that’s able to train.”