Seattle Sounders FC’s biggest personnel dream will shift into rave-green-wearing reality Tuesday, when Clint Dempsey is expected to train with his new and perhaps slightly awestruck teammates for the first time.
If all goes as planned, he will join them in game action Saturday when the Sounders visit Toronto FC.
“I think everybody on our team is very happy that Clint’s joining our team because it makes us a better team,” coach Sigi Schmid said Monday at Dempsey’s introductory news conference. “Where exactly (he’ll play), how we’re going to play, that’s something we’ll work out in the next few days on the training ground.”
Dempsey said he is eager to get started.
“The league is changing,” Dempsey said. “It is
growing. Fans are coming out to the games. The quality of soccer on the field is better. … I’m excited about coming back to the States and helping continue the growth of this league and to help the Seattle Sounders do well. The goal here is to win an MLS Cup, and I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen.”
Dempsey, 30, said it was important to him to return to Major League Soccer while he still is in the prime years of his career.
And what a career it has been so far.
Dempsey is the U.S. national team captain. He ranks second on the national team’s all-time list in goals (35), ninth in assists (12) and 14th in caps (99). He became the second Team USA player to score goals in consecutive World Cups (2006 and 2010). He spent the past six-plus seasons in the English Premier League with Fulham and Tottenham, and has scored more EPL goals than any other American (57).
Amid all that, general manager Adrian Hanauer said Dempsey has been atop the Sounders’ “dream-big player” wish list for two years. However, the club received no indication of interest from Dempsey until about two and a half weeks ago, when the club got phone calls from the upper reaches of MLS administration saying a deal might be struck.
Hanauer admits he had doubts about the fiscal viability of the deal, which has been reported to include a $9 million transfer fee and a four-year contract worth $32 million. But after a gathering of Sounders brass, his caution light switched to green.
“(Majority owner Joe Roth) again was very quick to pounce at this and said, ‘This is the guy we’ve wanted for two years; let’s figure out how to do it,’ ” Hanauer said. “(After owners Roth, Paul Allen, Drew Carey and Hanauer huddled), it was full steam ahead in that we felt Clint was the absolute right guy for our franchise at this time. From a playing standpoint, from a team dynamic standpoint, character, chemistry, what he does in the community and, alongside that, just a commitment to our fans — because we really do feel that we are stewards of this franchise for our fan base, and they deserve players like we have on our team and a guy like Clint Dempsey.”
Dempsey will join a team that is 9-7-4 in the MLS standings, two points short of playoff position but with at least two games in hand on all six clubs ahead.
The forward/midfielder will become the club’s third designated player, joining forward Obafemi Martins and midfielder Mauro Rosales. Other members of the Sounders’ core include U.S. national team forward Eddie Johnson, national team midfielder/defender Brad Evans, 2013 MLS All-Star rookie right back DeAndre Yedlin (who has agreed to yield his No. 2 jersey to Dempsey), 2012 MLS Best XI defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and former national team goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, with whom Dempsey already has gone fishing.
The Sounders’ next two games are on the road, setting up the likelihood of Dempsey making his home debut Aug. 25 in a nationally televised match against rival Portland, for which all CenturyLink Field seating areas will be open.
The club reported Monday that more than 60,000 tickets already have been distributed.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt