The Sounders have kept busy during the MLS offseason, and so will Clint Dempsey.
In an expected move, the superstar forward/midfielder was loaned to Fulham FC of the English Premier League on Tuesday. The loan will last two months, so Dempsey is expected back for Seattle’s season opener March 8 against reigning MLS champion Sporting Kansas City.
Dempsey, who played for Fulham from 2007 to 2012, will be eligible when the transfer window opens Jan. 1. The 30-year-old could play as many as eight league games for the Cottagers, who are next to last in the standings and could use a boost from their former two-time team MVP to avoid relegation into the second division.
“It feels good to be back,” Dempsey said in an interview on FulhamFC.com. “This has always kind of felt like my home in Europe.”
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Dempsey, who is captain of the U.S. men’s national team, has a clause in his contract with the Sounders that allows a one-time offseason loan, and it was designed for this year, ahead of next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Fulham confirmed Dempsey took a physical with the team Friday.
Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer had said throughout the offseason that a loan was likely.
Dempsey, who has 60 goals in 225 games with Fulham, said he had several motivations when it came to pursuing an offseason loan, something U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann had encouraged MLS players in the U.S. pool to do.
“I just wanted to get back to playing at the highest level, get back to playing in top form, getting back and helping the team in a situation where they’re not where they want to be in the table,” Dempsey told Fulham’s website. “Going into a World Cup year, you want to get to that top form and carry that forward so hopefully you can have a good showing.”
He didn’t discover that top form with the Sounders. Despite individual moments of brilliance, Dempsey finished with just one goal in nine regular-season games. The loan to Fulham could get the designated player in rhythm ahead of the MLS season, but it also comes with concerns.
Outside of the constant worry of injury, Dempsey will miss essentially all of the Sounders’ preseason, meaning the team won’t have all of its players together to develop chemistry after an offseason roster overhaul.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.