Clint Dempsey has been named the 2017 MLS Comeback Player of the Year. He’s the second Seattle Sounders player to win the award, joining Eddie Johnson who won it in 2012. The 34-year-old edged out Federico Higuain, who was returning from a knee injury.
Interestingly, Dempsey was the top choice in one of only three voting blocs. The media gave him 26 percent of its vote, with overall third-place winner Erick Torres finishing second in that bloc with 22 percent.
But Dempsey finished no worse than second in any voting bloc, with players reasonably split between him, Higuain and Vancouver’s Yordy Reyna. The club vote — which is comprised of team executives — overwhelmingly went with Higuain.
Narratively, it’s hard to deny that Dempsey had the most compelling comeback story. His career was feared to be over last year after heart issues forced him to miss the final third of the season and all of the Sounders’ MLS Cup run.
But doctors were able to correct his heart issues, and, although he was monitored throughout the year, there were no signs of problems this year. Dempsey responded by leading the Sounders with 12 goals and five assists in the regular season.
“I just think I got more comfortable, more confident, not thinking about it too much,” Dempsey told The Associated Press in an interview this week. “It’s always kind of a weird thing when you come back from an injury, especially with your heart. You’re always listening, feeling at night, thinking about it when you’re training and then making sure you’re having normal beats and stuff like that and checking on it. You just come to a point where you’re not thinking about it as much and that’s when you kind of get over it.”