Any discussion about Clint Dempsey’s 2016 starts and stops with the heart issues that forced him to watch the Seattle Sounders win the MLS Cup, rather than take the field with them. There’s great news on that front. He is practicing in full and game ready.
When Clint was on the field in ‘16 he played several slightly divergent roles. He started as a left wing in the 4-3-3, later he moved into the single attacking spot to control the offense, but where he flourished, and the Sounders flourished, was a brief four games where he and Nicolas Lodeiro both floated around underneath Jordan Morris. It was chaotic, odd tactically and wonderful. The team had an offense that was unstoppable. And then Dempsey stopped playing soccer for six months.
The ranking is based on several hundred Sounder at Heart readers’ votes. Realio rated every single MLS regular season and playoff game as well as the two CONCACAF Champions League matches. He did not rate USL or USOC play.
Clint Dempsey 2016
If there is a driving force behind Clint Dempsey it is that he hates the soccer ball. There is only one place where a soccer ball belongs and that is the back of the net. He will do everything in his power to insure that any ball he touches gets to the back of the goal, eventually. He will do so by head...
or by foot...
He does it on set-pieces too. Clint Dempsey is a pure scorer with a bit of flash. Sometimes his hatred for the ball displays itself in a virtual poetry of foot and ball. Like he’s out there freestyling and why aren’t the other 21 players just watching him?
Dempsey does have flaws in his attacking game. He’ll drop too deep, or not pass to others. He can pop up in unexpected spots, not in the good way, but in ways that surprise his teammates too.
He does score wonder goals, and try shit, though. There’s a pleasure to be gained when players are that good. He’s that good.
When his team turns the ball over he can be lackadaisical. He’s more the typical veteran forward in that way. Now, if he turns the ball over, and isn’t knocked to the ground, he will immediately try to win it back. Sometimes he can be a bit harsh in those efforts. Clint should be in the wall on set-pieces and look to sprint out on a counter when the opposition fails.
Clint was never the fastest, nor the strongest. But he’s willing to sacrifice body and soul to win games. His effort could be questioned on certain plays, but not his desire. In 2016 his soul stayed involved, but the problem became his heart. It will be a source of constant speculation for the remainder of his career.
Clint Dempsey was the best Sounder in CCL, and one of only a handful of players to excel in both matches against a superior Mexican squad. Clearly thrown off by the disappearance of Obafemi Martins, Clint played multiple spots in the attacking groups of what was ostensibly 4-3-3 (at least in name) for the first half of the MLS regular season. With the midfield struggling, often it was up to Clint to drop back across midfield to support getting the ball out of SSFC’s defensive half, and this removed some of his effectiveness as an attacking force.
It was unfortunate to see his medical issues diagnosed in the middle of the season. At the time of his heart issue stopping him from playing, Clint had the second best overall Realio rating on the team (6.65). He would end the season as the fourth highest rated player on the team, with a combined 6.737 cumulative average for all 19 appearances. Through 13 games under coach Schmid, Clint averaged a very good 6.38, but what really stands out is his massive 7.50 average in the four games under new coach Schmetzer and alongside Nicolas Lodeiro. In fact, Dempsey had a higher average than Lodeiro before he was forced to end his season prematurely. Clint’s scores saw the second highest boost of anyone on the team with the inclusion of a new coach and new players, increasing a whopping 17.5%.
We can only offer conjecture, but those four games showed us a glimpse of how well this team can play with Clint on the field. Following a gifted tie to LAG, Seattle looked masterful against Orlando with Clint dropping a hat trick in a game many players have noted was a turnaround for the team. With Jordan breaking the defense open, Nico slotting through balls, and Dempsey always being in the right place to facilitate, the team looked simply fantastic. Clint was able to stay higher up the field and be in more dangerous places, he was afforded more space to work, and he immediately clicked with the new players and formation tweaks. Yeah, we won MLS cup without him, but this small glimpse of how dynamic the SSFC attack can look when you add a player of Clint’s caliber to the mix is exciting. He is really, really good, and if his health holds he should be just as impressive this season.
Best Case 2017:
An MVP. No, I’m not joking. If Clint Dempsey plays in 28 or so MLS games he can put up MVP numbers.