Tim Browne had trouble believing, even with a memo urging him to be in his seat by 7:20 p.m. on Saturday for a special announcement from Sounders FC.
“It could only be one of two things,” Browne, a Sounders fan, said of his thoughts. “The biggest jerk move ever, or we got Clint Dempsey.”
To the excitement of 39,060 fans, the news was that the Sounders finalized a transfer of Dempsey, the 30-year-old U.S. national-team star from Texas, from Tottenham of the English Premier League.
The Sounders made the announcement before Seattle defeated FC Dallas 3-0 at CenturyLink Field. Walking to a podium to his own rap video, Dempsey was asked by Sounders majority owner Joe Roth if he’d made a decision on which team he’d like to join. Dempsey, 30, unzipped a gray sweatshirt to reveal his new Sounders rave green jersey.
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“Seattle, I just want to thank ya’ll and the Seattle Sounders organization for making me feel so welcome and at home,” Dempsey told the crowd. “I look forward to getting on the field and playing in front of the best fans in the world. I think we’ll accomplish some great things here.”
Sounders fans gladly returned the praise for Dempsey, the U.S. national-team captain.
“He’s literally the greatest American soccer player that ever played,” said Yosafe Murphy, 33. “And now he’s a Sounder. And in the prime of his career; that’s just insane.”
Draped in Dempsey’s national-team jersey, Browne was thrilled his favorite player was on his favorite team. Dempsey, a 6-foot-1 midfielder, is the ninth designated player in Sounders history. He joins forward Obafemi Martins and midfield Mauro Rosales for the team’s current allotment of three.
Dempsey last played in MLS from 2004-06 and was Rookie of the Year in 2004. During seven seasons in the Premier League, he scored 57 goals, the most by an American.
Sounders fans hope Dempsey is the piece that can bump the team into the playoffs this season and possibly its first-ever MLS Cup.
“Clint is a proven winner, a leader and a competitor who we believe will raise the bar of this organization on and off the field,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said in a release.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but NBC Sports reported that Tottenham would receive a $9 million transfer fee — the highest in MLS history — and Dempsey would be guaranteed $32 million over the next four seasons. It would be the largest base salary ever given to an MLS player.
Dempsey’s immediate impact wasn’t just in cheers as fans all over the stadium wore his national-team uniform, and No. 2 Sounders jerseys with Dempsey’s name on the back were already being sold at retailers outside CenturyLink (DeAndre Yedlin currently wears No. 2, but will change numbers).
“Having recently played in Seattle with the national team, I experienced the incredible atmosphere and passion from the supporters first-hand,” Dempsey said in a release.
The Sounders made room on the roster for Dempsey by agreeing Thursday to a new contract with Shalrie Joseph. The veteran midfielder no longer counts as a DP.
“It’s nice that America has good players, let alone coming back to the MLS,” Browne said. “We’ve always been a runt league in the world’s eyes and we’re getting better. We’re not in the top, yet, but this (Dempsey) makes us move faster.”