Barring a minor miracle -- or an act of unnecessary desperation -- Clint Dempsey isn't going to start against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday. Since being unveiled as the Seattle Sounders' latest and, presumably greatest, signing on Aug. 3, Dempsey has made just five appearances and started only three of eight games.
The 30-year-old is currently dealing with a hamstring injury, apparently serious enough that he hasn't been able to train outside for a week. Sigi Schmid said he expected Dempsey to train on Saturday and, if he does, could even contribute on Sunday.
But chances are, Dempsey is going to go another week without scoring. The national and international press is definitely taking notice, even suggesting that the Sounders got themselves some damaged goods.
The Sounders, at least outwardly, don't seem worried. Sigi has said more than once that he's happy if Dempsey "saves all his goals for the playoffs." And that seems perfectly sensible. Dempsey's signing was never going to be defined by how he played in his first handful of games. Signing arguably the greatest American goal-scorer in history was designed to bring silverware to Seattle, full stop.
Scoring goals and setting them up was obviously the main way we expected him to do that, but I'd argue that Dempsey has helped this team in other ways. On the most basic level, the Sounders have gone 7-1-1 since Dempsey was introduced, scored 14 goals and never been shut out. The team seems to be playing with a new level of confidence, attempting more aggressive passes, moving the ball around the field with authority and never looking intimidated. They've won a game while playing with 10 men for 85 minutes. They bossed Real Salt Lake. They were inches away from pulling out three points on the road against the LA Galaxy.
As a point of comparison, consider the Sounders went 4-4-1 and were shut out four times in the nine games preceding Dempsey's signing.
I don't know how much of an effect Dempsey has had on any of these things, but it seems like more than coincidence. Maybe Dempsey's big paycheck has motivated his new teammates that they deserve to be paid too. Maybe there's a knock-on effect when Dempsey is running around the training grounds "trying shit." Maybe the signing simply pounded home the message as to just how serious the Sounders front office and ownership was about winning.
Or maybe it is a coincidence and Dempsey's signing simply coincided with the team coming together and getting a little healthier.
I suppose that's fine too.