Clint Dempsey - Sounders FC Midfielder
(On the process of joining Sounders FC...) "A few weeks ago the opportunity came up where my agent was asking would it be something I'm interested in, and I said, ‘For sure.' It's the league that gave me the chance to become a professional, and I want to be able to come back in my prime and not when I'm past it to help continue the growth of this league and of this club. The league and Seattle Sounders organization has showed a great commitment to making that happen-they really moved mountains because I was still in contract and still had two years left [with Tottenham]. Going into preseason I honestly thought that's where I was going to be, so it was a big decision. I sat down with my family and talked about it a lot and just felt it was the right time. It just felt right. I'm excited to come and play in Seattle in front of some of the best fans in the world-statistically I think it's top 30 in the whole world. The league is changing, it is growing, fans are coming out to the games, the quality of soccer on the field is better. I got to see that during the World Cup Qualifiers-just being around that type of environment. I'm excited about coming back to the states and helping to continue grow this league and help Seattle Sounders do well. The goal here is to win a MLS Cup and I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen."
(On making the move to MLS in the prime of his career...) "I would say timing was everything. I had two more years on my contract. I was already starting to get the itch, to be honest with you. I wanted to come back to the states. I just missed being in America-it's where I was born and I wanted to help continue the growth of the game here. Like you said, you can't help the growth of the game if you come back and you don't perform. I understand there's a lot of pressure on me to succeed, a lot of expectations that others have on me, but also the expectations I put on myself. When I decided to come back to this league, I want to come and make an impact. I want to do a good job. I don't want to come and be passive and not be able to make a difference in games. I want to win things. I'm still going to work as hard as ever to make sure my game is at the highest level possible and I'm doing everything I can to help the team win."
(On the World Cup Qualifier in Seattle and how that affected his decision...) "The atmosphere was great. It was one of the best atmospheres that I've experience representing my country and being in the states. It almost felt like you're in a different country-it felt like you're in Europe. Also, just walking around the city the Seattle Sounders game was on and we were able to have a meal on our own as a team. Just walking around the city you see the games on TV in bars or in restaurants and it's just like, ‘Wow, I never thought I'd see the day,' because I grew up in Nacodoches, Texas, where it's like, ‘What are you doing? You're playing soccer? Why aren't you playing football? Why aren't you playing baseball?' Stuff like that. It did have a part to play in it, also the fact that the ownership group made such a commitment and showed how much they wanted me. You want to feel appreciated and I appreciate that. The atmosphere walking out to the game for the announcement, it felt like it was a movie. I've never felt so welcomed and so at home just right off the jump. I'm looking forward to getting on the field and really paying back the fans, paying back the ownership, paying back the league for the faith in me and make sure I show them that it was a good investment and we're going to do some great things here."
(On if he's spoken to USMNT Coach Jurgen Klinsmann about the move...) "I haven't had the opportunity to really sit down and talk to him about everything that's going on. I've been busy with my family and really thinking about the decision and trying to make the best decision possible for us. It's something that we will talk about, but like when I spoke with Sigi-I'm coming here and I'm still going to have that pressure to succeed, that pushing me every day to make sure that I can be the best player that I can be and help the team be the best that they can be. I'm not going to let up or slow down or slack, I'm going to keep pushing myself, keep working hard, and make the most of where I'm at. I'm happy to be here in Seattle. We'll have those discussions, but from my standpoint I don't see there being a difference there. There are players still in MLS that get called into camp and they still perform at a high level. I expect to continue doing the same."
(On the importance of Klinsmann's opinion...) "I think everybody has the right to their opinion and what they think is best for the future, whether that's with the National Team or that's with your career. You also have to do the same thing for yourself-everybody is their own man. It's not something I made a quick decision on. I really thought about it. I really had a lot of conversations with my mom, my dad, my brothers, and my wife. I just felt that it was the right time-I wanted to come back while I was in my prime. I had a good time in Europe. While I was at Fullham we did some great things there-got to a Europa League Final, we had the highest finish ever in the league table, finishing seventh. At Tottenham, we got to the highest point total that they've ever had with 72 points in a season. I look back with no regrets. I thought my time over there, if you want to crunch numbers, was successful, and I want to continue to do the same thing here. I just want to thank Tottenham and the organization and the fans. I want to thank Fullham and the organization and the fans for a great experience in Europe. I can't forget the New England Revolution, have to thank them because they gave me my start, but also I'm thanking Seattle Sounders because they're giving me another chance to be at a great club and do some great things for them, so hopefully we can get that done."
(On if the potential to play in the UEFA Champions League pulled him to stay in England...) "It's something that I did have to think about. It was a goal of mine to play in the Champions League. Last season we finished with the highest point total ever, and normally 72 points would have gotten you Champions League. Maybe that's something they can accomplish. I had two more years there, but I'd been in Europe for six and a half years. I just wanted to come home. I was starting to get that itch. Every year it was more difficult to go back. I think everything just has to do with timing. The Seattle Sounders moved mountains to get me here. It was an opportunity to come back when I was in my prime, help the continued growth of this league. It's a challenge that I'm excited about. It's not going to be easy, it's still going to be difficult, but I'm looking forward to it. But yeah, that was something I did think about."
(On his condition...) "Feeling good. I was able to get some training with Tottenham, I was able to participate in two games. The first game I played 60 minutes and the second game I played 45 minutes. I was able to contribute in that game and get a goal, so that felt good. It's still preseason. I'm going to have to work in training. I've only had the opportunity to do one training session here, but look forward to getting in with the guys and work on things and see where it is. You don't know where you are until you play in games. No matter how much you want to run, nothing can really replicate what it's like to play a game and play at a high level for 90 minutes. That's something we'll have to evaluate."
(On his travel of recent...) "Going back to preseason just to give you a little idea of how much traveling I've been doing-I went to London, was there for four days. Then I went to Hong Kong, was there for a week. I went back to London, was there for four days. When I was in Hong Kong I think that's when things were starting to be talked about, and then more advanced conversations when I was in London. Then it was about logistics-trying to get here as soon as possible and make it the easiest flight. Because of the situation, I flew into San Francisco and I don't think people knew what to expect. I think there were people saying, ‘Why is he in the states and where potentially could he be going?' Then I got on the flight to Seattle and had to go out a back door and try to keep it a secret as long as possible because it is something where you want to bring excitement around the announcement, and Adrian played a bit part in being able to keep the secret for as long as possible. It eventually got out a little bit but I still think it was a nice surprise. Like I said, walking on the field for the presentation, it was like a movie. I've never felt so appreciated and so valued. It just gives me that much more appreciation to work hard and pay those fans back for that moment."
(On if he was watching #DempseyWatch on twitter...) "I wasn't to be honest with you, but my brother was telling me about it, and my mom, so my family members were laughing about it. But I thought that it was awesome that people really care that much about the sport in the states that they wanted to know what was going on. They were trying to figure it all out, trying to piece together the puzzle and come up with their own conclusions. But, I'm happy to be in Seattle and I'm looking forward to doing some great things here."
(On how important it was for him to come to Seattle out of all places...) "It was important for me to be in Seattle because of the fan base, the atmosphere, and because Sigi is the coach. He's done so much for the American game, and just being around the national team I hear players talk about different coaches and it was always positive when they talked about Sigi. Also, being able to come up here for a world cup qualifier, and being able to see the atmosphere, talking with Eddie Johnson when we were with the national team about just how much he enjoyed it here and that kind of stuff. Also, on that trip I went fishing with Marcus Hahnemann and it was cool to just be back in the states and do the things that I enjoyed as a kid growing up, and it's really the perfect place for me to be. I can do everything that I want to do on and off the field, and I'm just looking forward to being here and being able to raise my family here. That was a big thing. Being able to have my kids be raised here in the states and to have some of the experiences that I had growing up like tee ball, and all of that kind of stuff. So I just look forward to that, and I look forward to just getting on the field."
(On if he sees this as a long term move...) "It's a long term contract, and yes I look to be here for a long time, so I'm happy about being here."
(On if he caught any fish with Marcus Hahnemann...) "Actually I foul hooked a minnow so I wasn't impressive. But Brad Davis actually caught a fish, so he kind of showed me up. It was a good time, it was good to get out to break up just being in the hotel. So that was nice of Marcus to take myself, Brad, and Stuart Holden for a day of fishing."
(On if he worked out the number two jersey with DeAndre Yedlin...) "Yes, there had to be a hostage negotiation, but he's a great kid and he's having a great year, and I'm sure that there will be some type of compensation. I'll have to take him out for a few meals as well. It was very kind of him to be able to let me have that number and we'll work something out. It is a number that holds a lot of significance to me. A lot of people look at it like, ‘Who is this kid and why does he want to wear number two if he's an attacking player?' But it all started for me when I was in college. It was the only number that was really available because the upperclassmen got all of the more traditional numbers that you would wear based on positions and then the rest were called scraps. And then when I went to the MLS I had the opportunity to wear number two or number ten, and at the time number ten was seen as an unlucky number with the Revolution, so I was like, ‘I don't want to touch that.' That's when I realized that the very first jersey I ever had was a number two jersey, so that's why it's something that is special to me. But I guess that when I was a little kid maybe they gave all of the little runts the number two jersey. That's why I've always tried to continue with the number two my whole life."
(On the growth of the league...) "The attendance, also more soccer-specific stadiums, the quality on the field, and they just show the games overseas. I've been able to catch the games here and there, even though there might be delayed games because of the time difference and all, but, they show the games. It just shows that there is an interest in people, in other countries, in watching our league. Being able to still have players, from this league doing well, play on the national team and still perform on a high level just show that there is not a drop off there. You can still be competitive and still compete against the players that are doing will in Europe, for a place play in the national team. That's as good of an example as any type on how well the league is doing."
Adrian Hanauer - Sounders FC General Manager and Owner
(Opening statement...) "Welcome everyone. Thank you for being here on this momentous occasion. We couldn't be more thrilled about today and this press conference. I wanted to take you back a little bit in time because I think it's sort of an interesting story in how we all got here, and Clint's perspective might be slightly different than mine, but I'll give you from our side how this came about. About two years ago, Joe Roth and I started having conversations about the ‘Dream Big Player' that we could bring to our team. I have to give a ton of credit to Joe Roth in this particular case. Joe is, as I've said, a no-guts-no-glory kind of guy. We had these conversations, and Clint Dempsey's name was always at the top of the list. Starting about two years [ago], I would call the league or be in contact with Lyle Yorks, Clint's agent, and inquire about Clint. And the answer was always ‘No chance. No chance. No chance. No chance,' so every few months I'd give a call and get the same answer. About five weeks ago or so there started to be some rumors from England that maybe Clint could be sold by Tottenham. We didn't know if they were rumors, if there was any validity to it, but it was an opportunity to pick up the phone again-called Lyle again, and the answer was still ‘No chance.' We sort of went on our way assuming that would continue to be the case. And then I'd say about two and a half weeks ago I got a call from Todd Durbin in the MLS office, concurrently the commissioner was reaching out to Joe Roth, and the message was, ‘There might be a chance.' We clearly jumped at that kink in the armor and wanted to figure out whether there was a true opportunity here or whether it would just be a passing opportunity. Joe again was very quick to pounce at this and said, ‘This is a guy we've wanted for two years. Let's figure out how to do it.' Truth be told, not having anything to do with Clint being the right guy for our team, I was a little more hesitant. This was a massive contract, a massive commitment by the club from our perspective-I don't know if it's massive from Clint's perspective. We've always wanted to run a really rational business. The great part of that point is we have a very good partnership-Joe Roth, myself, Paul Allen represented by Peter McLouglin, and Drew Carey. The four of us got together, made sure that this was still a reasonable thing to do from running-a-business standpoint. Once that box was checked, it was full steam ahead in that we thought 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 as though 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. With that said, again we're very, very privileged and excited to introduce the newest member of Seattle Sounders FC: Clint Dempsey."
(On how Dempsey was acquired by the league...) "We have different mechanisms by which players can come into the league. Clint came in as a designated player, but you can't come in through multiple mechanisms. You can't come in as a designated player and an allocation player, so he came in as a designated player. We were able to work directly with the league to put together a package that made sense. Let's be realistic, a player of Clint's quality and pedigree has a say in where he ends up. That's just the reality of certain players who end up in our league. That really was the process by which Clint came into the league, and Seattle, and as far as keeping the team together obviously we'll focus more on that next year. The only thing that I will say is that there's always a salary structure dynamic on every team, and with every sport in the world. Some guys get compensated a lot and some guys get compensated less. Some guys are overpaid for their performance and some guys are underpaid for their performance. It's my job to try to manage through that, and we'll try to manage through that in the best way possible."
(On the importance of getting the right guys...) "It's critical. Its easy to spend money in soccer. There's no shortage of players out there commanding massive salaries and transfer fees. We clearly wanted to get it right. Oba [Martins] performance is right so far. We believed two years ago, we still believe now that Clint is dead on another right decision, both on the field and off the field. First and for most, it's about winning championships and delivering for our fans. But Clint clearly provides the ancillary benefit of being a massive figure in US Soccer. A fan favorite and someone can connect with our fans and our communities and do great things here in the northwest and quite frankly, for the league overall. For sure it's got to be the right guy."
(On the step process the league is in currently...) "I think that we are in our adolescence as a league. I think the league is in its 17th year and we are always I sit on the carbine strategy committee and competition committee and we talk about transparency and we want to continue to have more and more transparency in the league. I think that it's a good thing for fans so it is somewhat we are working towards."
(On the rules of keeping the league competitive...) "Why don't we do this offline? This is about Clint and bringing him to Seattle. I'd rather get into the league rule stuff offline."
Peter McLoughlin - Sounders FC President
(On what allowed the club to sign Dempsey...) "It was a collective decision. Paul Allen was certainly supportive of the decision. Joe and Adrian were passionate about going after Clint. Clint is going to be huge addition. We do have a phenomenal fan base, we do lead the league in attendance, we'll lead the league for the fifth consecutive year after this season, and we intend to grow our fan base. Certainly that contributes to the resources, but it was a combination of reasons to go after Clint. It's the right player at the right time."
Sigi Schmid - Sounders FC Coach
(On signing Dempsey and the increased pressure to win...) "I think pressure is always there and pressure is what you put on yourself. Certainly when you can add a quality player, that makes you that much better as a team. I think everybody on our team is very happy that Clint is joining our team because they know he makes us a better team. Where exactly, how we're going to play-that's something we'll work out in the next few days on the training ground, and then in the next three-four games as people begin to understand each other and understand their goals and how their roles maybe change a little bit. As far as pressure, Adrian wants me to succeed and he wants to win an MLS Cup, I want to win an MLS Cup, and the guy sitting next to me here wants to win an MLS Cup. I think it definitely improves our chances. Whether it's this year, whether it's next year, I can't make those kind of predictions and promises, but I can promise you that we're going to give it a go this year and put ourselves in a position to win it."
(On what the transaction says about where the league and the team has grown to...) "Well I think that it makes a huge statement to the league. The ability to bring a player back like Clint at the time of his career that he's in right now where he's still in his prime, and the commitment that the league made to make that happen is a step forward. We've always been considered, and still are to some extent, a league where players are going to develop and then move on to maybe more lucrative pastures, and that's something that's still going to go on. But by bringing a player in like Clint I think that a statement has been made, so we're ready to move onto the next level. We're moving forward and we're going to be more competitive on a day-to-day basis. For our club, it's a tremendous commitment that the ownership has made, but it's also a fantastic reward for our fans. The fans that have followed us and who have been committed to this club for all of our years now going into our fifth year now, and it's a reward for them. You've been with us, you've been there, and now we're giving you a really special gift. We're bringing back a guy in Clint Dempsey who is in the prime of his career and we're going to continue to push, we're going to continue to keep this club at the upper echelon. We're not satisfied with being average, we want to be the best, and I think that's the message that the club sends. It's a tremendous reward for our fans, and it's big step forward for the league."
(On Clint joining the team and whether he will play against Toronto...) "Well certainly, having Clint gives us a lot more weapons. On offense, it gives us more options now and a lot of players to choose from. It's a matter of, like you said, understanding and getting them to mesh with everybody is important. Clint obviously is going to train with us this week. He's already played a couple of preseason games. We talked to him and from my expectation, he will play in Toronto. How many minutes and so forth that we will sort have work out and we will talk and see how things feel. The one thing that we don't want to do is push too hard and push too soon and put him in a situation where he will gets injured. We want him out there; maximizing his minutes. Our team overall, as we said before, the reception from the guys has been fantastic. We are starting to get healthier right now. I thought the team played very well against Dallas [FC] on Saturday night. We still got games in-hand. So the standings look bad right now, when you look at the points. But when you got games in-hand and we can take those games and put positive results on the end of them. We are going to put ourselves in a very good position and that's our objective. One of things that Clint is going to provide for us is crucial leadership at crucial moments in critical games. He's an experienced player. He's played in real world league matches, he's played in the UFL, he's played in the world cup qualifiers, and he's played in the world cup. You can't have enough of those type of guys that when it's a critical game and in those crucial moment in that critical game. Someone who can keep their wits about it, someone who can make the right decisions, someone who can make a determination, and also give a little help to a young guy like DeAndre [Yedlin]. That leadership within the game is something Clint can provide and will provide for us."