SEATTLE — By now, we’ve grown accustomed to Clint Dempsey getting into a hot run of form. After scoring the game-winner in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City, the Seattle Sounders star has six goals in his past four games. That’s the fifth time he’s averaged at least a goal-per-game over a four-match stretch in his Sounders career, with the best run coming when he scored seven in the first four matches of 2014.
This run feels like a particularly good time to take a step back and appreciate what Dempsey has done in his Sounders career. This one was his 50th in a Sounders uniform, more than everyone other than Fredy Montero (60 in all competitions). He’s done this in 105 appearances (a strike rate of .47 per game, slightly better than his rate of .42 with the United States national team).
The other four streaks were impressive, but this feels a bit different than those, and maybe even a bit more important. Dempsey is, after all, now 34 years old, an age at which goal-scorers often start to lose their edge.
Aside from David Villa — who somehow at 35 could manage to break the MLS single-season scoring record — no one else with at least nine goals this season is older than 32. Chris Wondolowski (34) is the only other player with as many as five goals this year at that advanced of an age.
Dempsey now has 10 goals this year. Since he entered the league in 2013, the 34-year-olds who have hit double-digits are all basically international stars. Guys like Frank Lampard, Robbie Keane, Didier Drogba, Thierry Henry and Marco Di Vaio are, in fact, the only players to have done this.
It’s not like Dempsey is just padding his numbers with penalties either, as just one of his goals is from the spot this year. His recent spat of goals includes three headers, a left-footed half volley from about 20 yards out and a couple other well taken attempts from inside the penalty area.
Maybe he doesn’t play with quite as much flare, but he’s still capable of moments of brilliance. This was a move that happened late in the game when it looked like he was hopelessly pinned into the corner:
Nice bit of skill from Clint Dempsey. pic.twitter.com/ug73AXhbEn— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) August 12, 2017
What’s really crazy is that many people were openly questioning Dempsey’s value to this team as recently as a couple months ago. He may not be a player who demands 50 touches every game anymore — he “only” had 35 on Saturday — but he’s still a player capable of changing games. More importantly, he’s making the Sounders better and chances are he’s going to pass Montero on the regular-season scoring list before the season is out (he’s now three behind).
It’s also just a lot of fun having him on the Sounders, especially right now.
How about some Dempsey trivia?
- You could probably guess that Obafemi Martins has assisted on more of Dempsey’s Sounders goals than any other player (nine). But did you know that Jordan Morris (3) is tied with Marco Pappa for the second most assists to Dempsey?
- Sporting KC was the 19th MLS team Dempsey has scored against, including U.S. Open Cup play since joining the Sounders. The Vancouver Whitecaps are the only team he’s faced more than once (five times) that he’s failed to score against, although he does have three assists against them. The only other current MLS teams he’s failed to score against in that time are Atlanta United (against whom he only played 33 minutes) and D.C. United (who he’s not faced as a Sounder, curiously enough).
- The team he’s scored against most is the Portland Timbers (nine).
- Dempsey’s goal against Sporting KC was his eighth header since joining the Sounders. Three of his goals are off free kicks, six are from penalties and two are classified as tap-ins. Of the remaining goals, 18 were with his right and 13 were with his left.
It’s not all about Clint, of course
The Sounders have not allowed a goal in 400 minutes, a new franchise record. They are still nearly four full games shy of catching the 2007 Houston Dynamo (727 minutes), but this is still a pretty impressive defensive showing.
This match didn’t require much work from Stefan Frei. He was credited with three saves, none of which required much of him beyond what we’ve grown accustomed to. The defense limited a mostly second choice KC to just nine shots, only three of which came from inside the penalty area. KC was also limited to just two completed passes into the penalty area, both of which came on corners and one of which was barely inside the area.
Marshall was especially strong. The center back logged six interceptions, three clearances and a blocked shot, while barely putting a foot wrong.
Cristian, Cristian, Cristian
This space has often been used to sing the praises of Cristian Roldan. He didn’t do anything that was, in itself, spectacular against Sporting KC. No goals, just a secondary assist, no game-saving tackles. All Roldan did was put together another stellar performance.
Roldan also played at least three positions. Roldan started as a defensive midfielder. After Osvaldo Alonso made his return and replaced Will Bruin, Roldan moved to left mid as Jordan Morris went to forward. When Nouhou entered for Dempsey, Roldan slid up to the No. 10 for the final few minutes.
That versatility is no small thing, as it affords Brian Schmetzer nearly limitless options for how to use his bench. He also does stuff like this to remind us that he’s a lot more than a versatile body to be plugged in around the pitch:
It's this kind of stuff that makes Cristian Roldan so good. pic.twitter.com/ZXdzRFzsbT— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) August 12, 2017
First place, for a moment
Immediately following the match, the Sounders were at the top of the Western Conference table. It didn’t last through the afternoon -- the Houston Dynamo’s win vaulted them ahead via goals-scored tiebreaker — but it still marked the first time since July 7, 2015 that the Sounders were in first place.
Welcome back, Lamar
Lamar Neagle only played 1 minute, officially, but the ovation he received was topped only by the cheer following Dempsey’s goal. There was also this moment when Neagle was brought onto the capo stand in the Brougham End. If that’s all the Sounders get out of his return, the fourth-round pick will have been well spent.
Stat of the game
18 — When Morris set up Dempsey’s header, it was his first assist of the season and ended a streak of 18 straight games without an assist. Morris’ previous assist came in the regular-season finale last year.
Quote of the day
“And then you can tell he’s a little feisty there at the end – things got a little heated – so that’s the kind of game that Ozzie enjoys playing, actually. So it was great to have him back.” - Schmetzer on Alonso’s return.