The Sounders weren’t even sure if Clint Dempsey would be able to play more than 60 minutes Saturday in Portland.
The U.S. national team captain had played every second of Wednesday’s exhibition against Mexico, and a three-hour flight from Phoenix amid an already lightning-quick turnaround had Dempsey’s availability very much in question.
“Had the game been on the East Coast,” Dempsey said, “it would’ve been a difficult game to start, because if you look at some of the players’ history, especially in Seattle, when they have long flights coming into games, sometimes they happen to pick up injuries.”
Coach Sigi Schmid told his star forward to check in with him after an hour, but at that point, Seattle was trailing by two goals and couldn’t afford the change. Dempsey was able to fight through fatigue to score twice in the final minutes, earning his first hat trick in MLS and rallying the Sounders to a dramatic 4-4 tie.
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The performance, in Dempsey’s return from a two-game suspension, has earned him MLS Player of the Week honors, as voted by the North American Soccer Reporters.
This is the first time this season a Sounder has won Player of the Week. Obafemi Martins, who set up two goals Saturday, was last to claim the honor in Week 29 of last year.
Dempsey, the league’s co-leader scorer with four goals, said the tie against Portland felt like a win and could spark momentum.
“We showed a lot of character fighting to get a point away from home against our rivals — an important point,” he said. “I think it’s a building block and something that will give us a boost going into our next game.”
And was this the best Dempsey has felt since his headline-grabbing return to the league in August?
“You always feel good when you’re contributing, scoring goals or getting assists,” said Dempsey, who also wore the captain’s armband with Brad Evans out injured.
“I’m in a good rhythm at the moment, and it’s about continuing that form.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org