News that Clint Dempsey will not play for the rest of 2016 is frightening. He has a significant issue with his heart. That is a major off-field problem that can only be addressed by medical doctors. What the Seattle Sounders have already figured out is how to play without their Designated Player - they’ve done alright.
Head Coach Brian Schmetzer turned to Nicolas Lodeiro as his central creator/scorer rather than Clint has scorer/creator. That left one open space in the attacking band. Alvaro Fernandez and Cristian Roldan have been given the nods for that role in those matches. Roldan started on the right twice with Alvaro has earned three starts out right and one on the left when Andreas Ivanschitz sat.
That spot allows Schmetzer to season the lineup with a few different flavors. He can go for a bit of flair and possession (Fernandez), or defensive strength with late runs (Roldan). Others could slot in with Nelson Haedo Valdez playing as a target winger, or Herculez Gomez the press-man, and when Brad Evans can play he could slot there to add stable consistency with a dash of all of the above.
Tuesday’s news is not a shock for the players and staff, they’ve dealt with the situation for a month so far, going 2-1-2 with nine goals scored. Clint not being able to return like a white knight allows the team to focus on perfecting what they have already done.
What they’ve done is continue to charge up the standings, and have only lost once in five games. No tricks are needed. They’ve beaten a team ahead of them and one below them. Four of those five games were on the road. Seattle earned five points in those games.
Yes, the team would be much stronger with Dempsey in uniform playing in the hole behind Jordan Morris. Sounders FC are more likely to earn a trophy with Clint on the field than not.
His absence will hurt them, but mostly emotionally as they focus on his health.