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Clint Dempsey’s first game is positive step toward full return

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The rust was there, but after 30 minutes more is expected in the coming days.

MLS: Desert Friendlies-Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

It was merely a preseason game and Clint Dempsey didn’t even complete a half, but make no mistake about the importance of those 30 minutes.

After being out from anything resembling competitive action for nearly six months, just getting him onto the field for the preseason opener on Saturday was a massive step forward.

“It’s been a roller-coaster but you want to do whatever you can to get back on the field and keep playing,” Dempsey said. “It’s something I love to do. I’ve worked hard to be in the position to get back onto the field and now it’s just about getting sharp, getting the touches a little bit better and the passing a little bit better. That will come with games and I’m looking forward to that process and hopefully being ready for the start of the season.”

Make no mistake, Dempsey was no where near full strength. There was obvious rust, his touch was a bit off and he never looked as sharp as he has throughout training. But he was still “trying shit,” whether it was taking players on at the top of the box or attempting a leaping side volley from about 16 yards that that actually forced Jake Gleeson into his first save of the evening.

“We saw him and [Nico] Lodeiro combining,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Dempsey’s a smart player, he’s going to figure it out.”

More than how he played, the most encouraging news to come out of the game was the expectation that he’ll be able to ramp up from here. At least in the immediate aftermath, there were no red flags or cause for caution.

“His recovery is going as scheduled,” Schmetzer said. “That was 30 minutes dead stop, we couldn’t give him anymore. Next game, we’ll ramp him up a little more. We have to get doctor’s clearance, all that stuff. We’re taking it very carefully and making sure his health is No. 1.”