#4 Clint Dempsey – 6.73 | Community – 6.55
Checking in at #4 is reborn attacker Clint Dempsey. After a health scare, Clint ended 2016 with only 19 appearances. Much of the offseason prior to 2017 was shrouded in mystery. Would Clint be back? Would he play much? Dempsey answered these questions early on, putting his heart issues behind him, immediately starting and playing well. He improved his appearances to a solid 33 matches while balancing his USMNT duties on the side. His cumulative rating rose as well, from 6.65 last season.
In 2017 Dempsey was both durable and productive. He earned six MOTM awards (second most on the team) with a low rating of 5 and a high of 9. He continually played both scorer and distributor, showing off his ability to create and leading the team in goals.
At some points in the year Clint struggled to connect with midfielders around him, and at times he was redundant in space with Will Bruin.
A snippet of the bad:
Clint earned a below average rating for a game played in a monsoon on a baseball field, on June 17 in New York:
“When Seattle doesn’t play well Clint gets much of the blame, with fans usually relying on the same tired “not enough run-through-wallness” arguments. This game he deserved some of that criticism. It was not that Dempsey wasn’t trying, but there were a few times I expected more fire from a guy known for his temper.”
This was a weird game, but one where I thought the team needed much more leadership from Clint. There were times he needed to give more, and when contrasted to Villa’s fire on the other side, Dempsey came up wanting.
A tired Dempsey contributed to an overall poor team showing in a 1-1 tie vs LAG at home Sept. 10:
“This was by no means a good outing for a player of Clint’s ability, but a majority of his errors looked to be touch related, maybe from fatigue. I am concerned that he was constantly in the same areas as Bruin, which they will need to fix with Morris out for a while.”
At times Clint struggled to connect with others, and this game was one where he looked a little run down. He has such great touch that it’s really noticeable when he fails to control even the hardest passes.
Fiery temper got Clint into trouble against Colorado in the last game of the year, preventing him from playing in the first playoff match against Vancouver:
“It’s definitely an unnecessary hard foul and the kind of call that can be a red in this league. It’s disappointing that the referee deemed it serious foul play, as I truly don’t see a deliberate intent to injure or strike the face, but Dempsey has to know he’s a target for this sort of play and be smarter. (This incident was similar to the Nico kick-out red earlier this season.)”
Clint took a cheap shot at a guy who did a solid job of getting under his skin, and was baited into a red that had huge consequences. Up until that point he dominated the game, but he just can’t get sucked into any petulant acts, because he will not get the benefit of the doubt.
On the flip side Dempsey had a massive four 9s this year, showing by far the most ability on the team to earn super high scores. Showing no signs of slowing, 2017 Dempsey was able to completely take over games with incredible goals, amazing vision, and brilliant passing.
A snippet of the good:
Clint said “hi” to LAG in an absolute pasting in Los Angeles on April 23:
“It had to be Deuce. Clint just destroyed my notes, and his stats were staggering: 91 percent passing, seven shots, five key passes, seven for seven on long balls, perfect on through balls, a goal, an assist, and a crossbar. He wasn’t too far from a three-goal, three-assist game which is insane, especially on the road in LA.”
This was a great example of what firing on all cylinders looks like for Dempsey. While getting tons of shots off he is also accurate, putting them on frame and scoring goals. Clint is also able to facilitate well for others, and his playmaking in this game was fantastic.
In a road game against Colorado on the 4th of July with two injury subs in the first twenty-five minutes, Clint stepped up big:
“The last few games have reminded us just how incredible Dempsey can be, and that should put a lot of fear into opponents moving forward. He blew up the stat book putting all three of his shots on goal, adding three key passes, 85% passing, two goals, an assist, and most importantly, displaying that when the Sounders most need it, he is capable of doing the amazing.”
The amazing in this note was his 85th minute score that may have been goal of the year for the Seattle Sounders, an immaculate Frei punt/Bruin flick/Dempsey volley combination that iced the game and is worth a second look. It’s at 3:44.
In a game against Vancouver on September 27th Dempsey was given a role as false 9, and he rewarded the team with a phenomenal outing:
“Dempsey was incredible on Wednesday, showing advanced playmaking skills and the ability to facilitate others beautifully. From the front he had 90 percent completion on his connection and drop offs, which really led to Seattle keeping dominant possession. Clint managed a massive seven shots, a key pass, and a goal, but more importantly combined with others in the front in a fluid, hydra attack that was at times unstoppable.”
This is a role that I wish the team had tried more with Morris out, but the combination of bringing V-Rod in, injuries, and other mitigating factors, this formation ended up being almost a one off. Dempsey was just incredible in the match, flicking overhead passes and running the team from the front, showing holdup and creativity while scoring to boot.
Following his career trend of raising his play in big games, Dempsey increased his average grade from 6.66 in the regular season to 7.25 in the post season, and had one of only three average or above grades in the final. He contributed a 9 and MOTM in the playoff game at home versus Vancouver. There was zero sign of degradation of Dempsey’s skills, and his style has evolved to minimize any physical limitations from age or fitness. Clint was as good as or better in 2017 than he has ever been as a Sounder.
Dempsey is an every day starter and leader on a team looking for CCL and MLS success. He should be deployed in high central positions, whether underneath a forward or as the false 9 mentioned above. Managing his time will be important with the full schedule, but I fully expect Dempsey to have even more appearances in 2018 than last year.