When Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey retired on Wednesday, the soccer world paid its respects. The most decorated American ever, Dempsey left a lasting impact on players, pundits and fans alike.
“It’s really difficult to put into words what he’s done for the sport in the United States,” said midfielder Cristian Roldan. “He’s the reason why a lot of us Americans are playing the sport. He’s been such a great example, on and off the field, scoring goals, making an impact.”
Roldan watched Dempsey make a name for himself abroad while scoring at multiple World Cups. Getting a chance to play alongside Dempsey the last four years for club and country was not lost on the 23-year-old.
“As a kid growing up and you see an American playing on the biggest stage, you think, ‘Well, it’s possible for anybody,’” Roldan said. “As a player growing up in that time, you always wanted to be like Clint.”
Clint Dempsey warms up with Chad Marshall | Mike Fiechtner
Defender Chad Marshall is also in his 15th professional season and was drafted six spots ahead of Dempsey in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. They were teammates on the United States U-20 national team and Marshall finds it special to see just how incredible a career Dempsey has had.
“You take pride in someone you played with when you were young seeing them do well in the biggest league in the world and then have him come back and play these final five years together,” said Marshall. “It was an honor. He’s a great player, and for my money, the best this country has ever produced.”
Captain Osvaldo Alonso remembers what it was like when Dempsey first arrived. A Sounders MLS original, Alonso had already enjoyed success in Seattle, but he knew that playing alongside a player of Dempsey’s caliber would only lead to more titles.
“[Dempsey was] a big-time player, so to have him here was great,” said Alonso. “He gave everything he had for the team, and I’m very lucky to be able to play with him.
Ozzie Alonso and Clint Dempsey celebrate their 2014 Supporters’ Shield win | Corky Trewin
“He proved it in the World Cup, he proved it in the Premier League and he proved it here,” he continued. “He’s an amazing player and an amazing person. He’s done a lot for the country and for the club.”
Dempsey’s time in Seattle meant a lot to Head Coach Brian Schmetzer, who fought back emotions when discussing Dempsey’s legacy earlier this week. From being an assistant in Dempsey’s first three years to taking the reins for his final two seasons, Schmetzer beamed over the memories Dempsey will leave behind.
“[Dempsey’s] creative flair was something,” Schmetzer said. “He tried s---. That was his slogan, that was already out there. I think Bruce Arena got credit for that quote. That’s what he did. He was very creative."
“He’s always been a team guy,” he added. “That’s always what’s been important to me. He’s always treated the coaching staff, the medical staff, the training staff with the utmost respect. I really appreciated that. It was always in his character.”