TUKWILA, Wash. — Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey is back in full training after nearly six months.
The United States’ second all-time leading goalscorer has been sidelined since late August while undergoing treatment for an irregular heartbeat. The Sounders officially ruled him out for the year in September.
Dempsey has been around the team during his recovery and even lightly trained in the lead-up to December’s MLS Cup. He participated fully on Tuesday at Starfire Sports for the first day of the Sounders’ 2017 preseason, and he is medically cleared to continue to practice barring any health concerns that may arise.
“We’ve been pleased with his progress,” said Sounders General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “His attitude has been awesome, he’s worked really hard. He’s now progressed to a point where he’s able to rejoin the team on a regular basis. We still have some steps to get through. We’re excited about what the future may hold.”
Dempsey, 33, played in 17 games in 2016, scoring eight times, including five in his final three games before his initial diagnosis.
Lagerwey said the main concerns now for Dempsey, assuming all remains well with his health, are regaining his form, sharpness and fitness. Just because Dempsey is medically cleared to play is not synonymous with him being capable of the regular physical demands any professional player goes through. The Sounders and their medical staff are cautiously working to get Dempsey back into a productive player in the safest way they can.
“It’s great to see him on the pitch because I’ve seen him working indoors for quite a while,” said Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “It’s difficult for someone who is very competitive like him. I’m glad to see him out there, he’s probably enjoying this right now. Hopefully he can contain himself and still follow the plan that we’ve set.”
The Sounders will travel to Tucson, Ariz., next week for preseason camp before going to Charleston, S.C., for 10 days for a preseason round-robin tournament in the Carolina Challenge Cup. Dempsey will be with the team and Lagerwey said “it’s possible” that Dempsey plays in some of those exhibitions.
“We’re going to see how this goes,” Lagerwey said. “I can’t be complimentary enough about how hard Clint has worked. It is not easy to take that kind of time off given his experience and bounce back right away. He’s been really positive and a really good influence in our locker room as well.”
The Sounders open the 2017 MLS regular season on March 4 against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium.