Retiring in the midst of an unbelievable resurgence, the Seattle Sounders will continue their playoff fight without designated forward Clint Dempsey.
Tied for the most goals with both the Sounders and United States Men’s National Team, it’s a bittersweet ending for the 35-year-old. But at least it’s an ending on his own terms.
Being absent for the 2016 MLS Cup tied for the goal record while leaving the game he loves injured is hard to take in. Dempsey’ last kick on the field was a long shot that hit the post of an empty net and rolled out. It was his final whistle, game and the last time Deuce would take the field donning that green and blue.
Watching Dempsey play was wonderful. A maestro on the field, his little flicks and tricks showed his world class technique. And as one of the best players to ever put on the Sounders’ uniform, he will be missed. The “DEMPSEYLAND” sign will come down, No. 2 will no longer be occupied, and the man known as Deuce will never represent club or country again.
The ending may have been simple and quiet, but the resounding effect he has had on American soccer can be seen across the country. Dempsey paved the way for young players to leave America for Europe. He found success in the English Premier League with both Fulham and Tottenham. His legacy is filled with ups and downs, but his influence and greatness cannot be denied.
Dempsey has three Gold Cups and is the first American to score in three consecutive World Cups. He earned numerous personal accolades and set goal-scoring records in both the states and Europe. Dempsey simply set himself apart. He had world class technique and masterclass skill. His playmaking was unique for American soccer and he will go down as one of the best Americans to ever play the sport.
I loved watching Dempsey play. He shocked the MLS and set a new standard for designated players by joining the Sounders in the midst of his prime. He showed up for the big games. On multiple occasions, he helped take down Seattle’s rival — the Portland Timbers.
He played with a passion that very few had. The chip on his shoulder led to goals, red cards and fights. Just his presence struck fear in opposing defenses. And as his physical health and athleticism waned, his masterful touch and precision passing remained intact.
Dempsey hadn’t played in almost a month for the Sounders. He was struggling to recover from a back injury and the Sounders were doing just fine without him. It seemed like a repeat of the 2016 season when Dempsey’s campaign was cut short by a heart issue. Yet, the Sounders still managed to find a way to win the MLS Cup.
However, Dempsey’s form this season hasn’t been up to his normal standards. And his retirement is understandable. Though, it came right before the Sounders set an MLS record with eight consecutive victories. Whether or not Dempsey would have seen minutes on the field if he recovered from that back injury, his experience and veteran leadership would have been useful during the playoffs.
Now the Sounders are thriving and went from almost dead last in the league to above the playoff line for the first time this season. They may not need Dempsey right now, but he will be greatly missed by Sounders fans.
Deuce was a beloved. He was a national hero. He brought talent that the Sounders had never seen before. His pairing with Obafemi Martins resulted in one of the most dangerous attacking duos the MLS had ever seen.
Dempsey and Martins helped bring the Supporters Shield to Seattle. And they played attractive soccer all the while — little flick passes, back-heels; plus goals that were the epitome of a strike partnership. An attacking connection in Seattle has not been duplicated since.
But Dempsey’s legacy is complicated. All he cared about was winning, but trophies and awards matter to the fans. There’s the dominance in the early years that led to the Supporters Shield. Not to mention, a U.S. Open Cup in 2014. But frustrating playoff losses would follow. Then, the heart issue that ultimately sidelined him for the MLS Cup in 2016 emerged.
However, Dempsey made an amazing comeback in 2017 — scoring 12 regular season goals and three in the playoffs — only to lose in the MLS Cup.
No matter how tough the seasons have been, Dempsey always played with heart. He always found the back of the net in rivalry games. He scored nine goals while providing one assist in 10 matches against the Portland Timbers. Sounders fans will fondly remember his hat trick against the Timbers in 2014.
It was sad to see Dempsey’s decline this season, but I’m grateful for everything he has brought. He became a true legend at every level of the game. From his humble beginnings in Texas to scoring in three World Cups, playing in the Premier League, and leaving the game tied for first in goals for his last club (and country), Clint Dempsey has left a mark on the world’s sport.
He may not have been able to step on the field as a player, but his entire family enjoyed a celebration before the Sounders home game against Sporting Kansas City. Dempsey was honored with the traditional Golden Scarf usually given to former Sounders and other Seattle legends. He was also given his own framed jersey. And in front were two fishing rods.
The Sounders also gifted him a three-day fishing trip. A video was put together of celebrities and Seattle legends congratulating and thanking Dempsey including Steve Nash, Macklemore, Marshawn Lynch, Sue Bird and Kobe Bryant.
From the celebration handshakes to the goals and trophies, Sounders fans will always be grateful for the contributions of Clint Dempsey. One of the greatest players to put on the rave green jersey and the red, white and blue of the national team, Dempsey will be remembered for his tough, badass demeanor and clutch goal-scoring ability.