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Sounders ‘cautiously optimistic’ about Clint Dempsey’s return

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Sounders Designated Player has been cleared to train, but not to play.

Photos: Training Day One Mike Russell/Sounder at Heart

Clint Dempsey returned to Seattle Sounders training on Wednesday, but when he’ll actually be able to play in a match is still an open question.

"He's had a procedure to address some of the issues associated with that,” Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey told reporters after Dempsey’s first training session. “We are not at liberty to discuss anything further from a medical perspective.

“I will add that we are cautiously optimistic that he could return to play this season. He's been cleared to return to training, to exercise, but he has not been medically cleared to play yet. We don't have a timetable for that and we won't, because we want to prioritize his health. When Clint feels better and the doctors feel that it's safe, then we will consider his return to play.”

Dempsey has not played since scoring two goals in a 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers on Aug. 21. Several days later, it was revealed Dempsey had been dealing with an irregular heartbeat for much of the season and that something was recently discovered that prompted the Sounders to sideline him. Dempsey has missed the Sounders’ last three games, as well as two World Cup qualifiers for the United States national team.

What exactly that problem was or how it was addressed remains something the Sounders have refused to comment upon, citing medical privacy reasons. They are also being careful not to rush Dempsey back, meaning he’s almost certainly out for at least Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

“You don't want to put false pressure on a return,” Lagerwey said. “You can't just say that Clint is important to us, you have to mean it and that means that Clint's health comes first.”

Dempsey did not address the media following the session, but he did appear to be in good spirits and his return sounds like a shot in the arm for a team that has gotten just two points in three games without him.

“I'm just in a really good mood,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I think it's super positive news.

“The player is really happy, it was good news for us. You could see that it translated into the tempo of training today. I didn't make a formal announcement until we walked out into the field. They knew he was here. We welcomed him back with a laugh and a giggle and a ‘hey Clint tell us what you've been doing,’ stuff like that. He was in great spirits and the team was obviously lifted by him being here.”