Asked Thursday about the club's decision to part ways with longtime coach Sigi Schmid late last month, Dempsey was diplomatic.
The Sounders are now unbeaten in two matches under interim head coach Brian Schmetzer. Clint Dempsey scored as many goals in last Sunday’s win at Orlando City than he’d managed in the entire league season entering last weekend.
And with a two-game homestand against Western Conference rivals Salt Lake and Portland followed by a road trip to last-place Houston on tap, rumblings of a potential late-season turnaround have begun to stir.
Asked Thursday what — or who — has been the biggest impetus behind Seattle’s rejuvenated attack, Dempsey pointed not to the coaching change but to the club’s newest Designated Player signing, Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro.
“His quality in the attacking third, being able to pick out runners, his vision his just of opens up the game for us,” Dempsey said of Lodeiro, who has dished out two assists in as many MLS starts. “… People have to mark him, so it leaves someone else open. That’s been a difference-maker for us.
Most Read Sports Stories
- Instant analysis: Three impressions from No. 25 UW Huskies' loss to No. 12 Oregon
- After loss to Oregon, the 2019 season will be a disappointment for Huskies no matter what
- Sports on TV & radio: Local listings for Seattle games and events
- MLB's proposed shakeup of minor leagues leaves AquaSox's future with Mariners in doubt
- After UW offense dominates for three quarters, the Huskies 'hit a wall' in crushing loss to Oregon
“We have players who are picking their head up in the final third and picking out people in the box. We’re able to convert those opportunities. … We haven’t scored enough goals. We’ve been able to get better looks the last couple of games.”
Dempsey also spoke with effusive praise for rookie forward Jordan Morris, who assisted on two of the veteran’s three goals at Orlando and who Dempsey jogged toward to celebrate both strikes.
“He’s becoming a complete player, not only somebody that can score goals, but can get assists,” Dempsey said. “You look at last game, he could have had five assists. He’s coming along great, and the future is just looking brighter and brighter for him.
“You have to give respect to the people that put you in a position to score. I felt like a lot of the goals I’ve scored this year have come from good balls in. You want to show love to the people that are creating chances for you.”
On the club’s decision to part ways with longtime coach Sigi Schmid late last month, Dempsey was diplomatic.
“It’s one of those things,” Dempsey said. “It’s a business, and people have to make difficult decisions. You try to figure out ways to get things turned around for teams. Sometimes, it’s not the fault of a certain person. It’s just that sometimes change sparks things. We’re trying to make a push for the end of the season and right now, things are looking better.”
Dempsey is on pace to average fewer goals and assists per game than in any season since the one in which he arrived midway through from Tottenham Hotspur. He’s notched six goals and just one assist in league play this season, having appeared in 15 of Seattle’s 22 games.
But his rhythm was again disrupted by a midseason international tournament — this time Copa America Centenario — and Schmetzer said he senses a player finally getting his bearings as the season enters its final stretch.
“The whole season has seemed to have been a bit of a challenge,” Schmetzer said. “He doesn’t have the best start, then he goes away, then he comes back, now he’s got three goals. Nico is incorporated into the team, Flaco (Fernandez) is here, Jordy’s budding and blossoming a little bit as a forward. I think it’s just a growing process, a learning curve for all of them. So it is a little bit difficult.
“But you heard him. His interview was great. He’s for the team. He’ll do whatever it takes. We’ve got the team headed in the right direction.”