Clint Dempsey was back at Starfire Sports on Friday for his first Sounders FC training session since returning from U.S. National Team duty at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The veteran forward has played in seven games over the last 24 days, including 45 minutes of action at the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday. But that didn’t stop Dempsey from declaring himself fit to play in Saturday’s critical match against rival Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
“I’m ready to go,” he said on Friday. “Whatever role they want to put me in, in terms of how many minutes, it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to go out there and play, just try to help the team win.
“I’m looking forward to being back here and trying to finish the season strong. We’re trying to push to win MLS Cup.”
Just as Dempsey is excited to be back in Seattle, the team is equally as thrilled to have his services for what will be a challenging month of August.
“It was good to have Dempsey back, and good to have [Chad] Marshall back,” Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “It just lifts the mood of the whole group…There are guys that you can give the ball to and you don’t worry about the ball being lost again, and [Dempsey] is that kind of a player. So he gives your team sort of a hub to the wheel at times.”
If the Gold Cup was any indication, Dempsey should provide a boost for a Seattle team that has struggled to score in his absence. Dempsey netted seven goals in six games, the most of any player in the tournament and the highest total ever recorded by any American player in a single Gold Cup.
Sounders FC went 1-6-0 in the games Dempsey missed due to the Gold Cup and his three-game suspension in June. In those seven MLS matches, the club scored just twice.
“You never want to see your team not doing well, but at the same time, you can only control the things that you can,” Dempsey said. “Now I’m back, and all I can control is how hard I work to try to help the team.
“We’ve just got to get out there and work hard, create chances for each other and get back to the style of play that got us to the top of the table earlier in the year…I think getting everybody together and having that competition for spots will make the team a little sharper.”
Fellow USMNT player Brad Evans, goalkeeper Stefan Frei and striker Obafemi Martins join Dempsey as candidates to return to action on Saturday. Frei and Martins are listed as questionable due to injury.
If Martins is unable to play, Dempsey could line up alongside Chad Barrett, the veteran forward who netted a brace the first time Seattle met Vancouver this season. Dempsey assisted Barrett’s first goal in the 2-0 victory at BC Place.
“He works hard, and we get along off the field as well,” Dempsey said of Barrett. “We’ll just look for each other in the game and try to create chances for each other. Hopefully we’ll score some goals and win.”
Saturday’s match at CenturyLink Field kicks off at 7:00 p.m. PT, with local television coverage on Q13 FOX and Univision-Seattle.