Seattle Sounders FC’s biggest personnel dream will shift into rave-green-wearing reality today as 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 press 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; it is growing, fans are coming out to the games; the quality of soccer on the field is better,” he said. “… 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 is still in the prime years of his career.
And what a career it has been: Dempsey is the U.S. national team captain. He ranks second all-time on the national team in goals (35), ninth in assists (12) and 13th in caps (99). He became the second USA player to score goals in consecutive World Cups (2006 and 2010). He spent the last seven years in the English Premier League with Fulham and Tottenham and has scored more EPL goals than any 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 Major League Soccer administration saying a deal might be struck.
Hanauer admits he had doubts about the fiscal viability about the deal, which has been reported to include a $9 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 stands 9-7-4 in the MLS, two points short of playoff position but with at least two games in hand on all six clubs ahead it.
The forward/midfielder will become the club’s third designated player, joining forward Obafemi Martins and midfielder Mauro Rosales.
The Sounders’ next two games are on the road, setting up the likelihood Dempsey will make his home debut Aug. 25 vs. Portland.