One day after Clint Dempsey’s formal introduction, his signing is paying off for Seattle Sounders FC.
The club announced Tuesday that all seats in the full capacity of CenturyLink Field had sold out for the Portland Timbers’ visit Aug. 25 — which likely will mark Dempsey’s home debut.
The Sounders responded by expanding capacity by about 400 through the installation of upper-deck bleachers and standing room.
It’s the first time the club has added seats to the full stadium configuration, and it sets up the possibility of toppling the venue’s attendance record of 66,452 for a Major League Soccer game (2012 vs. Portland) or its overall soccer record of 67,052 (2011 friendly vs. Manchester United).
The Dempsey effect also was visible at Sounders training Tuesday, as about 30 fans showed up at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila – a typical practice draws a handful of spectators – hoping to see the U.S. national team captain practice with his new club for the first time.
Unfortunately for them, the newest Sounder was a surprise scratch because of illness.
“Probably with all the activities and everything else and just the busyness of his schedule, he ended up coming down with a little bit of a virus (Monday) and was sick,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “It was better for him to stay home today. It was the decision of the doctors.”
Schmid said the missed session doesn’t necessarily mean Dempsey’s playing debut will be delayed beyond Saturday’s match at Toronto FC.
“We’re still a long way away from Saturday, and we’ll see how he feels at the end of the day,” Schmid said. “The likelihood of him going 90 minutes on Saturday is probably very small. But whether that’s starting and coming off, or whether that’s coming in as a sub, we’ll have to see.”
Dempsey’s absence came at a time when the club’s health was otherwise improving.
Midfielder Shalrie Joseph (calf) said he feels great and hopes to be on the 18-man game-day roster at Toronto. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Michael Gspurning returned to full training for the first time since suffering a forearm injury July 13 at San Jose.
“It was a good hour and a half, and it’s feeling good,” Gspurning said. “Of course, it needs time to find back in the rhythm. And also the hand, we look if it’s stable or stuff like this. But it looks good. That’s the positive of today. I’m very happy.”
The Sounders generally do not make injured players available to the media. So, Tuesday also presented the first chance to ask Gspurning whether he thought Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart made a dirty play when he kicked Gspurning’s forearm while the keeper slid to scoop a loose ball.
“I think he could have stopped,” Gspurning said. “But it’s OK now; I don’t blame him. We know what player he is: He is always giving 100 percent for the team. He was playing aggressively. ... It’s tough, but it’s part of the game. But I’m over it, and I don’t feel bad about him now.”
The past several weeks also have been tough for Joseph, who hasn’t played since July 6.
“It’s been a struggling couple of months,” he said. “I’m just trying to stay positive, and knowing that we’re winning now helps everything.”
Joseph has played in seven regular-season games and started four, with no goals or assists.
Last week, he signed a contract that removed his previous designated player status. That move created a way for Seattle to sign Dempsey, who was a teammate of Joseph’s for New England from 2004-2006.
“I didn’t know it was for him specifically,” Joseph said. “I’m glad it worked out in the end. It’s a team game, and for me it’s all about trying to win a championship. That’s why I came here, and whoever they wanted to bring in, I’m glad it worked out perfectly.”