Clint Dempsey celebrates Vancouver goal 2017-11-02
Jane Gershovich

Clint Dempsey named 2017 MLS Comeback Player of the Year

SEATTLE, WASH. – Major League Soccer today announced that Seattle Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey has been named 2017 MLS Comeback Player of the Year. Dempsey led Sounders FC with 12 regular season goals to go along with five assists in 2017 after being sidelined with an irregular heartbeat diagnosis in August of last season, forcing him to miss the club’s 2016 MLS Cup run. Dempsey edged Columbus’ Federico Higuaín and Houston’s Erick Torres for the award, which honors an MLS player who has overcome injuries and/or adversity in order to achieve success during the 2017 regular season. Dempsey is the second Sounders FC player to win the award after Eddie Johnson in 2012.

“Thank you all for selecting me for this award. I would like to thank all of the doctors who helped me, the Sounders organization and my family for their support,” said Dempsey. “It’s been a great season thus far and I would like to recognize my teammates, the coaching staff and the trainers for making it happen. Last but not least, I would like to show love to the fans for always being there for us through thick and thin.”

After being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat in August of 2016, sidelining him for Seattle's MLS Cup run and putting his professional future in question, Dempsey returned to action with Sounders FC in the 2017 preseason. He went on to lead the Rave Green with 12 goals to go along with five assists in 29 appearances (25 starts) this season, and his 46 regular-season goals for Seattle are just one goal shy of the Sounders FC all-time club scoring record held by Fredy Montero. In the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, Dempsey has already added two more goals to his tally this season, scoring a brace against Vancouver to seal semifinal-round victory on November 2.

“When he received his heart diagnosis last season, returning to soccer was far from our top priority. Clint is a family man with a wife and four kids, and we wanted to make sure he could get back to living a long and healthy life for them,” said Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “The fact that he was able to come back so soon and so strong impressed all of us, and we couldn’t have made it to where we are this season without him.”

After starting the season off strong – including two goals in his first three games – Dempsey’s campaign really took off with a run of seven goals in six games this summer. The streak began at Portland on June 25, with the Nacogdoches, Texas native coming off the bench to score in the waning moments of stoppage time to force a 2-2 draw. He went on to score braces in two of his next three games, as the Rave Green recorded a club-record 13-match unbeaten streak (7-0-6) over the summer. Dempsey’s success continued into the Western Conference Semifinals against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, where he scored twice in the second leg to propel Seattle into a Conference Championship matchup with Houston. Dempsey is currently the club’s all-time leading postseason goal-scorer with five goals in 11 appearances.

The award was voted on by MLS club technical staff, media and current MLS players. Below is a breakdown of the voting results:

2017 MLS COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTING RESULTS

PLAYER

PLAYER VOTE %

MEDIA VOTE %

CLUB VOTE %

AVERAGE %

Clint Dempsey

14.52%

26.38%

15.48%

18.79%

Federico Higuaín

16.13%

11.96%

26.19%

18.09%

Erick Torres

6.05%

22.39%

15.48%

14.64%

Yordy Reyna

12.90%

8.59%

5.95%

9.15%

Drew Moor

8.87%

3.99%

13.10%

8.65%

Ben Sweat

4.03%

4.29%

5.95%

4.76%

“We’re all very, very proud of Clint and what he has overcome in the past year. It’s a testament to his mental toughness and resilience that he was able to return to his great form after facing the adversity that came about so suddenly last season,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “We’re certainly happy to have him for this season’s playoff run, and now our focus is to win another MLS Cup, this time with Clint on the field.”

The 34-year-old also returned to international play in 2017, recording five goals and four assists in 11 appearances (six starts) for U.S. Men's National Team. In addition to scoring a hat trick against Honduras in a 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier on March 24, Dempsey tied Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT scoring record with his 57th career international goal against Costa Rica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals on July 22.

“Clint’s ability to overcome this obstacle and return to his top form will no doubt add to his legacy as one of the best players in the history of U.S. Soccer,” said Sounders FC Vice President of Soccer & Sporting Director Chris Henderson. “In addition to his elite technical ability, his grit and commitment to the game have always defined Clint as a player. This award should have a special place in the long list of accolades that he has earned throughout his career.”

After advancing past Vancouver in the Conference Semifinals, Seattle is amidst preparations for its Western Conference Championship matchup with the Houston Dynamo, with the first leg in Houston set for Tuesday, November 21 (6:30 p.m. PT / FS1) and the second leg in Seattle on Thursday, November 30 (7:30 p.m. PT / ESPN). Single-match tickets for the second leg are available via SoundersFC.com/Playoffs and the CenturyLink Field box office.

MLS COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR WINNERS:

2017: Clint Dempsey – Seattle Sounders FC

2016: Chris Pontius – Philadelphia Union

2015: Tim Melia – Sporting Kansas City

2014: Rodney Wallace – Portland Timbers

2013: Kevin Alston – New England Revolution

2012: Eddie Johnson – Seattle Sounders FC

2011: David Beckham – Los Angeles Galaxy

2010: Bobby Convey – San Jose Earthquakes

2009: Zach Thornton – Chivas USA

2008: Kenny Cooper – FC Dallas

2007: Eddie Johnson – Kansas City Wizards

2006: Richard Mulrooney – FC Dallas

2005: Chris Klein – Kansas City Wizards

2004: Brian Ching – San Jose Earthquakes

2003: Chris Armas – Chicago Fire

2002: Chris Klein – Kansas City Wizards

2001: Troy Dayak – San Jose Earthquakes

2000: Tony Meola – Kansas City Wizards

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