SEATTLE (CBS) – Two weeks ago, Clint Dempsey made his return to the US men’s national team in a World Cup Qualifier match against Honduras in San Jose, Calif.
In the first match of Bruce Arena’s second tenure as USMNT head coach, Dempsey logged a performance that defied expectations.
Just six months after he was shut down for the year with a irregular heartbeat, the Texas-born attacker played all 90 minutes and scored a hat trick against Honduras in a 6-1 rout by the US.
Now, 15 days later, Dempsey returns to Avaya Stadium, trading in the red, white and blue for Rave Green. The Sounders take on the San Jose Earthquakes for the first time in 2017 this Saturday in the MLS nightcap.
“Looking forward to being back there. We’ve played some games there now,” Dempsey said after training on Thursday.
“It’s a good stadium… anytime you can play on nice pitches, you’re happy.”
The Earthquakes are coming off a 2-1 loss on the road against New York City FC. After San Jose took a 1-0 lead just six minutes in, NYC came from behind, with super sub Thomas McNamara scoring in the 67 minute to hand the Quakes their 2nd-straight loss.
San Jose is 2-2 on the season, just one point ahead of the Sounders in the West standings.
After returning to Seattle for just one training session last Thursday, Dempsey appeared as a sub for the Sounders in Friday’s scoreless tie with Atlanta United.
Though the attacking center mid had several scoring opportunities, including a header that went off the post on his first touch of the game, Dempsey’s 30 minutes on the field appeared to be not enough for Seattle to find a game-winner.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good. It’s a lot to ask for a lot of the players. You’ve got international players traveling long distances, only having one day to train with your team, and then you’re back at it playing the game,” Dempsey said.
“It is what it is. Other teams have to deal with it.”
The Sounders had four starters, including Dempsey, all returning international play.
Defenders Joevin Jones (Trinidad & Tobago) and Roman Torres (Panama), along with midfielder Nicholas Lodeiro (Argentina), all returned to training and were in the 18 against Atlanta. Lodeiro and Joevin Jones both started and played the whole game, while Torres remained on the bench.
The tie featured a solid performance defensively by a motley crew along the back four, while the offense was unable to find any consistent rhythm in the attack.
One point at home may have been a less-than desirable outcome for a Seattle team with a record of 79-29-27 at CenturyLink Field since joining the league in 2009. However, the combination of international fatigue and relying on depth players made the outcome understandable.
“It was difficult for everyone to get back on that field again after such a quick turn around with them scheduling a game on Friday,” Dempsey said.
Seattle opened the season with a 3-1 loss on the road at Houston, but haven’t lost since, picking up five points in three games.
Attempting to do what no team has done since the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2012—repeating as MLS Cup Champions—the Sounders find themselves in a good position one month into the season
Yet for Clint Dempsey, despite two goals and several impressive performances by the team, this is only the beginning.
“I think the best is still yet to come.”