They say you can't go back home again. You can, apparently, go back to the club that you left in order to pursue your Champions League dreams, though, as Clint Dempsey will be spending the bulk of his offseason at Fulham on what is currently billed as a two-month loan. After much speculation, the Seattle Sounders made the official announcement on Tuesday.
Dempsey, who scored 50 league goals over parts of six seasons with the London club, will be eligible to start playing on Jan. 1, 2014 and is scheduled to return to the Sounders sometime after Fulham's game on Feb. 22. While it obviously would be nice if the player around whom the Sounders appear to be building their team could be there for all of training camp, he should have a couple weeks to get to know his new teammates before the March 8 opener against Sporting Kansas City.
The loan isn't all bad from a Sounders perspective. Although he won't be participating in classic team-building activities like last year's Harlem Shake, he will be playing competitive matches and hopefully be regaining the form that allowed him to become the highest scoring American in English Premier League history. There's also a, albeit remote, chance that the Sounders could get allocation money out of the deal. To get allocation, the fee Fulham is paying would at least have to be greater than Dempsey's salary and even then, it might have to be more than the prorated portion of his transfer fee.
Despite the challenges, it's not hard to understand why Dempsey would choose to go on loan rather than rest up. During his time in Seattle, Dempsey was never able to get into much of a rhythm and had just one goal and one assist while battling through several injuries and being called away to national team duty.
This being a World Cup year, Dempsey can also ill afford to lose whatever progress he was making toward the end of the Sounders' season. Since playing his last game with Tottenham back on May 19, Dempsey has played just 19 competitive matches for club and country. Fulham has eight matches on the schedule between Jan. 1 and the end of February.
Fulham could use his help, too. The Cottagers are currently stuck in 19th place after another loss on Saturday, a point behind 17th place West Ham. Rene Meulensteen has taken over for Martin Jol, who was Dempsey's last coach at Fulham and it's not exactly clear how the playmaker will be used.
UPDATE: Dempsey explained his thinking behind the loan, and leaves little doubt that he intends to return to Seattle.