Clint Dempsey came to the Seattle Sounders midway through the 2013 campaign as probably the most hyped player to join MLS since David Beckham. It was such an absurd notion that he’d even considering joining the team at the time that the saga surrounding Dempsey’s arrival had played out almost comically.
His debut season, though, had not gone as planned. Although Dempsey’s arrival helped spark a run to the top of the Supporters’ Shield, the regular season ended with a seven-game winless run that included a five-game losing streak. After recovering to win their first playoff game, the Sounders were then smashed by the Portland Timbers in the Western Conference semifinals. Along the way, Dempsey scored just once in 12 MLS appearances.
Dempsey had started 2014 a bit better — picking up an assist in the season opener and following up with a goal in the next game — but had yet to have anything like a starring performance as the Sounders prepared to visit the Timbers on April 5, 2014.
Before the day was through, Dempsey would establish himself as a key component of MLS’s best rivalry. His hat trick didn’t just salvage a point for the Sounders in a heated rivalry, it would come to define an era in club history that started with winning the U.S. Open Cup-Supporters’ Shield double that year. It was also, arguably, the most entertaining match in the rivalry’s history and probably one of the most thoroughly enjoyable affairs MLS neutrals had ever witnessed.
The match started well for the Sounders, with Kenny Cooper poking home a ball at the back post from a Jalil Anibaba volley. But the Timbers came roaring back to take the lead before the 20th minute through Diego Charra’s first goal in 2.5 years and a wonderful strike from Diego Valeri. Dempsey pulled the Sounders even in the 26th minute, finishing off a wonderful feed from Obafemi Martins with a cool left-footed shot.
Undeterred, the Timbers grabbed the lead again about 10 minutes after halftime and then seemed to be cruising to victory when Maxi Urrutti put them up 4-2 just two minutes later.
Through a bit of luck and good fortune, that’s where the score stayed until the 85th minute when Gonzalo Pineda found Lamar Neagle down the right wing. Neagle controlled the ball well then made a nice move to create some space before putting a ball into the box. Martins got just enough of it to settle the ball for Dempsey, who controlled and finished Andrew Weber. As if sensing what was coming, Weber tossed the ball away before Dempsey could grab it, leading to a quick hug between the former teammates.
Almost immediately after the restart, the Sounders were again attacking the goal. A bad touch by Charra left a free ball in the box. DeAndre Yedlin burst into the box only to be knocked over by Ben Zemanski, drawing a penalty. Dempsey finished easily to tie the score 4-4.
When the final whistle blew, the two teams had combined for 41 shots, 38 fouls and seven cards. The Sounders went on to win their next five and go 9-1-1 over their next 11 to storm into the Supporters’ Shield lead. Dempsey and Martins would go on to combine for 32 goals and 23 assists. By the time Dempsey retired in 2018, he would score a total of nine goals in 10 career matches against the Timbers in which the Sounders went 6-1-3.