Take a deep breath. It's real. It has happened. There's no need to pinch yourself because this is not a dream. Clint Dempsey is now a Seattle Sounder. Preceded by a video featuring his song "Don't Tread on Me", the 30-year-old United States international was just introduced during a pregame announcement. It was glorious.
Arguably greatest American goal-scorer has agreed to at least temporarily forgo pursuit of UEFA Champions League to join the Sounders on a transfer and instead will help the team pursue CONCACAF Champions League. After scoring 36 English Premier League goals over the past three seasons, he'll now be a key part in what has to be one of the most talented attacks in MLS history. The 99-time capped U.S. international will get No. 100 while a member of the Sounders.
It seems surreal, partly because of how we got here. The rumors started, ever so quietly, almost two weeks ago with this seemingly crazy and out of the blue Tweet from an account most Sounders fans had never heard of:
Dempsey will move to Seattle Sounders FC. Forlan's destination is unknown but he will end up in the MLS.— Football Paradise (@Football_P) July 23, 2013
It all remained quiet until Thursday, when the Sounders announced that they had reworked Shalrie Joseph's contract so that he no longer counted as a Designated Player. We know how it went from there. Keith Costigan said the Sounders were interested in Dempsey and before we knew it there were fans literally staking out the airport attempting to get a glimpse.
By the time we all went to bed on Thursday, it seemed like it had all just been a fun diversion. Even among those of us who were holding out some level of belief that it was going to happen, there was a TON of reasonable skepticism. A guy making $7.5 million a year to play for one of England's biggest clubs was going to agree to come to MLS at 30 years old? It just seemed crazy.
And yet, here we are talking about this thing that is actually a done deal. The details are still a bit sketchy, but I've been told the Sounders agreed to pay Tottenham Hotspur about $9 million for the transfer and various reports have pegged Dempsey's contract at anywhere from $4 million to $8 million a year guaranteed for four years. The Sounders were apparently the only MLS team willing to pay the hefty sum, but the league issued a statement saying that Designated Players are exempt for the Allocation process anyway.
It's worth remembering that he'll only count $175,000 against the salary cap this year, which means the Sounders probably have room to add another player to their roster before the close of the transfer window on Aug. 8. And if the Sounders didn't have to use the allocation process to get him, they should still have the No. 2 spot in the order.
But let's not get too ahead of ourselves. This was a move with one thing in mind above all others: Winning an MLS Cup as soon as possible. I'm still not sure how Dempsey will be deployed, but there's a lot to like about the idea of Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins and Dempsey spear-heading your attack. It's hard to believe those words are no longer the thing of dreams. This is our new reality, for better or worse.