Seattle Sounders must adjust to life without star forward Clint Dempsey

TUKWILA, Wash. - The Seattle Sounders announced on Friday that forward Clint Dempsey would miss Sunday’s match in Portland (2 p.m. PT; ESPN; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM) against the Timbers as he undergoes tests for an irregular heartbeat.

Dempsey will be seeing team doctors to plan a course of action. His timetable to return is unclear.

“It’s something that we’ve been monitoring during the season,” Sounders general manager and president of soccer Garth Lagerwey said on Friday after the news broke. “We have Clint’s best interest at heart first and foremost...He’s been calm in our conversations with him. Anytime someone tells you something about your body then that’s an issue of some concern, but he’s been real mature and real professional about this.”

Said interim head coach Brian Schmetzer: “When I spoke to Clint yesterday on the phone, he was upbeat, positive, wants the team to do well on Sunday.”

Jeff Carlisle of ESPN confirmed on Friday that Dempsey would not be called in for the U.S. national team’s upcoming World Cup qualifying matches on Sept. 2 and 6. The United States takes on St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively, with a spot in the Hexagonal on the line.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said he spoke with Dempsey about the situation on Friday.

“Everybody here, us, U.S. Soccer, Clint, we’re all on the same page as to getting to the bottom of this,” said Lagerwey.

In the meantime, the Sounders will have to make do without their co-leading scorer and Timbers killer. Dempsey has eight career goals against Portland, the most in the MLS rivalry on either team, including two in Seattle’s 3-1 win at CenturyLink Field last Sunday. He is tied for the team’s 2016 lead in goals at eight with Jordan Morris.

“We have a strong squad,” Schmetzer said regarding Dempsey’s absence this Sunday.

It will be easier said than done, though, especially with the return of the Timbers’ Fanendo Adi to the starting lineup. Adi came on as a late substitute and scored Portland’s lone goal after being a late scratch and missing the team’s flight to Seattle.

With Dempsey out, the Sounders will need to look elsewhere to create and finish chances.

“[We need to] continue the good play,” said Schmetzer. “Chance creation is going to be key for us because we cannot bunker against a good Portland team for 90 minutes. We’re gonna go out and try to attack.”

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