The official line from the Seattle Sounders about Clint Dempsey’s status for 2017 has long been “cautious optimism.” Whether it’s on-the-record or off-the-record, virtually everyone says some version of “We hope he’s going to play but we can’t really know for sure until he actually does.”
In that sense, Sounders President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey’s comments to ESPN’s Jeffrey Carlisle are nothing new.
"We are going to do our best to try to get him ready to play in a safe manner, and if it happens, great, and if it doesn't, then we'll be patient and wait as long as it takes."
In another sense, these were the most extensive comments Lagerwey has made about Dempsey’s status since announcing the Designated Player was being ruled out for the remainder of the 2016 season back on Sept. 27. Back then, Lagerwey said the Sounders wouldn’t be making anymore comments on Dempsey’s status until the start of training camp. That this comes a couple weeks earlier could be seen as a slightly positive development.
Lagerwey did suggest that Dempsey will be training with the Sounders when preseason camp opens around Jan. 22. But he pumped the brakes on any sort of expectations, noting that Dempsey has not played a competitive minute of soccer since Aug. 21, nearly six months before the start of training camp.
"You don't overcome that in a day or a week. You've got to get fit and play soccer and all those kinds of things. We'll be carefully monitoring every step of the way in that process."
If there’s one main takeaway from all of this it’s that Dempsey is part of the Sounders plans, at least today. While they may have alternate plans ready, the assumption they are working under is that Dempsey will at least be taking up a roster spot when the season begins. That probably complicates any potential pursuit of another Designated Player, but at least provides some level of clarity.