Even though Jordan Morris made headlines for his epic, last-minute goal in the Gold Cup final, his Seattle Sounders teammate Clint Dempsey also had an excellent, albeit shorter, tournament. But luckily for Sounders fans, both players are riding high off their Gold Cup successes in their first full start since returning. In the 4-0 drubbing of Minnesota United last weekend, Dempsey scored a brace that put him just above Will Bruin on the Sounders scoring chart for the season. Just like Dempsey tied the all-time USMNT scoring record, he’s also getting very close to beating the Sounders’ MLS scoring record.
But Dempsey doesn’t credit the team’s success with anything he’s done, choosing instead to focus on how much better the team has looked in recent weeks. Dempsey chalked up the ridiculously effective offense with “more confidence in front of goal, the team as a whole is getting better looks.” He thinks that confidence has only built as the Sounders extend their unbeaten streak; keeping that alive could be vital in the final run-in for the MLS Cup playoffs. “The team is playing with confidence and a good rhythm, and when you’re on a streak like we are with seven games unbeaten, it just kinda helps things along and when you get your chances you just have to finish.”
Even though the Sounders obviously don’t want to put themselves in a position to require epic comebacks like against New England, or more recently against D.C. United, Dempsey said the character required to accomplish such feats has been vital. “It kinda gets the belief in the team that anything can happen and go on and make a push.” But as Dempsey likes to stress, the Sounders “just gotta keep building upon” performances like that and keep the momentum going forward.
Dempsey also believes that goalscoring and confidence can often go hand-in-hand, especially when the creativity is there and giving players ample chances to score. “ It’s just a matter of knowing you’re going to get good looks, so that kinda gives you the confidence of being sharp when you do get your chances.” His goal is to score at least half of the chances he’s given, and when he feels confident that his teammates will give him those chances, he’s sharper and more prepared to put them in the back of the net.
While it seems that Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro aren’t always on the same page for Seattle, that relationship seems to be improving regularly. Dempsey appreciates Lodeiro’s knack for creating goals for himself and others, but he said one of the best things about Lodeiro is how he creates a dynamic that forces opposing players to double up on him and open up space for his teammates. “Just having a player that’s dangerous like that kinda opens up the field for everybody else.”
Even though it’s been a little while since Lamar Neagle left Seattle, he still got in a handful of seasons with Dempsey, who is glad to see the return of a teammate who he also considers to be a good friend. But beyond just their personal relationship, Dempsey thinks Neagle is a great addition to the Sounders squad. “He’s performed well wherever he’s been, he’s someone who can always get goals, good work rate, good speed.”
It’s notable that Dempsey is only four goals away from tying the Sounders’ all-time MLS scoring record (Fredy Montero, 47), giving him the chance to tie two major scoring records in 2017. He said he appreciates hearing about things like that, because it tells him he’s doing something right. “It’s good to know you’re doing well, when you’re getting close to breaking any type of record.” But Dempsey avoids letting such opportunities cloud his judgment while playing, preferring instead to just continue what he was doing all along. “It always feels good, but it doesn’t change how you play, you always go out there and try to score.”
The Sounders face Sporting KC at home on Saturday, and Dempsey hopes the Sounders use their handful of advantages to snag three points from their Western Conference rivals. Not only do the Sounders play at home and go into the match with a seven-match unbeaten streak, but they’re also facing a very tired KC side. “They’ll be traveling, coming off overtime and penalties on Wednesday, we have to go out there and dictate the pace of the game and we know it’s going to be difficult.” Again, for Dempsey it comes down to taking advantage of as many of the chances that come his way, as well as solid defense and goalkeeping. “If we’re able to be at our best, we’ll be able to create opportunities and it’s just a matter of being clinical in front of goal and staying compact at the back.”