At this time last year, Clint Dempsey was an ocean away from his Seattle Sounders FC teammates, on loan to English soccer team Fulham FC.
This preseason is different, as he concluded his second day of preseason training with the Sounders on Friday. Next week, he will travel with the team to Arizona and the Desert Diamond Cup, and then back home for final preparations before the MLS season opens March 8 against New England.
Everyone involved — including Dempsey — figures that could be a good thing.
“I’m going to get a little more of an opportunity to get a preseason this time around,” Dempsey said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to going to Arizona and working on some stuff, to make sure that I’m sharp when the season starts because last time I wasn’t able to get many training sessions in before that first game against Kansas City last year. I’m looking forward to getting some practice games.”
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Dempsey didn’t go out on loan this offseason, but he has spent most of this year with the United States national team. However, he and Sounders coach Sigi Schmid believe that gave him a head start on his Sounders’ teammates, who have been in preseason training for less than a month.
“He should be ahead of some of our guys because (he) went to camp earlier with the national team,” Schmid said. “So it’s really been more of a balance with us trying to balance giving him some time off and keeping him in his form. But this is the only week that we felt that we could do that … and (Friday) training was good.”
Dempsey arrived in the Northwest this week, warmed up with his teammates Wednesday, and then trained fully with them Thursday and Friday. He likes what he has seen.
“Still a good locker room — that’s always a good sign,” he said. “Everybody’s hungry, trying to impress and show they should be in the (starting) 11. And then I guess we going to see as we get closer to that first game everybody pushing even harder, more competition for spots and everything like that.”
Even with his late arrival last season, Dempsey had his best MLS season with 15 goals and 10 assists — both numbers trailing only fellow Sounders forward Obafemi Martins.
Dempsey, though, admits there was a dip in his play later in the season, attributable to his lack of an offseason and then his bouncing between club and country during a busy World Cup year.
He believes this season he could be fitter — and better.
“I think what happened was as the season went on, and even after the World Cup, there was a little bit of lull there, a little bit of tiredness in the legs,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to experience that this year. Knock on wood.”
The Sounders will train Saturday at Starfire Sports Complex before flying to Arizona on Sunday. Schmid said some players will be cut from the first team before that trip. … All-Star midfielder Osvaldo Alonso will not accompany the team to Arizona, while he continues to rehab from groin surgery. However, Schmid said he expects Alonso to rejoin the club at some point during its two-weeks in Tucson.