It’s rivalry week in the Pacific Northwest as Sounders FC meets the Portland Timbers in the first of three regular season matches this season on Saturday at Providence Park. However, Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin will get an early taste of rivalries on Wednesday when they suit up for the U.S. National Team against Mexico in a friendly to tune up for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in June.
And while there is never any love lost between U.S. and Mexico when it comes to soccer, Dempsey isn’t expecting the teams to be playing for blood when they square off on Wednesday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
“It’s always exciting to represent your country, but it’s a friendly. It’s not a World Cup qualifier, so there’s not as much pressure as there would be if it was a World Cup qualifying game,” Dempsey said before joining the U.S. at training on Sunday. “But it’s still exciting to represent your country and to play against one of your rivals. You always want to do well when you put on the jersey for the U.S.”
Wednesday will be Dempsey’s second match for the U.S. this year after playing 90 minutes in a 2-0 loss to Ukraine on March 5, just three days before the MLS season opener that saw him play 33 minutes in a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. It will also mark Dempsey’s first appearance since being dealt a two-match suspension by the MLS Disciplinary Committee and the Sounders FC star appreciates the support from U.S. National Team Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann in the wake of that suspension.
“It’s always good to know that the manager has your back,” Dempsey said. “I appreciate that and all I can do is keep working hard, work on my fitness after training and make sure that I play well when I’m with the national team like I’ve always done in the past and pay him back for his faith in me.”
Dempsey has 36 goals in 102 appearances for the U.S., including a career-high six goals in 10 matches last year.
This season, he has one goal and one assist in 123 minutes for Sounders FC. Upon his return from the friendly, he will join Seattle’s preparations for Saturday’s match with the Timbers. Though he has played in just 11 regular season matches and three playoff contests for Sounders FC, Dempsey has already grown quite familiar with Seattle’s long-standing rivalry with Portland, playing four of his 14 matches against Seattle’s rivals to the south.
“It’s a good rivalry. They’re a team that plays good soccer,” Dempsey said. “It’s good for the league and it’s exciting to be a part of those rivalries.”
Saturday’s match will be televised nationally on NBC Sports, while the U.S.-Mexico match on Wednesday will be on ESPN.