The Sounders FC ownership is not afraid to be bold.
A simple look at the Rave Green kits worn by the players on the pitch and thousands of supporters at CenturyLink Field are a clear indication of that.
On Saturday, they may have made their boldest move of all, when the club announced it has signed U.S. National Team captain Clint Dempsey. On Monday, he met with the media alongside Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer, President Peter McLoughlin and Head Coach Sigi Schmid.
Hanauer was more excited in his opening comments than he has been since the last time he held a formal press conference at CenturyLink Field, when he announced that Schmid would be the club’s head coach.
That’s because Dempsey has been a target for Sounders FC for two years.
Every few months, Hanauer would call Dempsey’s agent and inquire about his interest in coming to MLS. The answer, according to Hanauer, was always, “No chance.”
That was until mid-July when he got a call from MLS Executive Vice President of Competition and Player Relations Todd Durbin and they pounced at the opportunity.
“We made sure that this was still a reasonable thing to do from the standpoint of running a business,” Hanauer said. “Once that box was checked, it was full steam ahead in that we thought Clint was the absolute right guy for our franchise at this time.”
That cosmic leap landed Sounders FC a veteran of seven seasons in the English Premier League – six with Fulham and one with Tottenham. He started his career in MLS with the New England Revolution in 2004, winning the MLS Rookie of the Year award, then earning MLS Best XI honors in 2005 and 2006 before leaving for England.
While at Fulham, he was twice the club’s Player of the Season, helped them reach the Europa League final in 2010 and finished fourth in voting for Premiership Player of the Season after he posted 17 goals in the 2011-2012 campaign.
In Rave Green, he gives Schmid another dynamic attacking option to go with two other Premier League veterans, Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson.
“Well certainly having Clint gives us a lot more weapons. On offense, it gives us more options now and a lot of players to choose from,” Schmid said. “One of things that Clint is going to provide for us is crucial leadership at crucial moments in critical games. He’s an experienced player. You can’t have enough of those type of guys that when it’s a critical game and in those crucial moments in that critical game. That leadership within the game is something Clint can provide and will provide for us.”
The move raises the profile of the league on a global scale, as it brings an international star in his prime back to MLS. After adding Martins earlier this year, it also shows a commitment of the ownership group to do whatever it takes to put their best foot forward to compete for the elusive MLS Cup title.
It’s something Hanauer feels obliged to do as Seattle has come out in droves to support the club, racking up MLS record attendance figures each season while providing an unparalleled atmosphere.
“We really do feel as though we are stewards of this franchise for our fanbase,” Hanauer said, repeating a mantra he has stated many times before. “They deserve players like we have on our team and a guy like Clint Dempsey.”