Clint Dempsey has been fully cleared to participate in matches and it sounds like he’s even likely to start in Saturday’s season opener against the Houston Dynamo. Putting aside the caveats that nothing in life is guaranteed and that one irregular test could prove to be a massive setback, this is obviously great news for the Seattle Sounders and Dempsey.
"I would think that there's a pretty high probability of [Dempsey starting]," Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer told reporters.
At the same time, the Sounders preached patience, not just with Dempsey’s return but with their intention to not push players too hard early in the season. In that vein, Brad Evans has already been ruled out for five to seven weeks and both Jordan Morris and Chad Marshall were excused early from Tuesday’s training session to tend to niggling injuries.
Schmetzer, while clearly excited about the potential of getting Dempsey on the field with Nicolas Lodeiro and Morris again, doesn’t expect fireworks right away.
"The prospect is great, and then we have reality when Jordy dings up his ankle and we can't have Jordy for the last [preseason] game. It's a work in progress. I don't want anybody to be too anxious if they don't quite get it like they had in those four games last year [where Dempsey played alongside Lodeiro and Morris]. They will get it, because they're all really tremendous soccer players, so I have high expectations. But I think it's still a work in progress."
Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey signaled an equally precautionary tone, pointing out that the players who participated in national team camps got about half of the time off as they’d normally get in a MLS offseason.
"We're not going to push anybody back quickly at this point," Lagerwey said. "It's more important to us how we look later in the season than in March."
Dave Clark and Spenser Davis contributed to this report.