Argentina is scheduled to play Bolivia in its Copa America Centenario group-stage finale on Tuesday night at CenturyLink Field.
Sounders forward Herculez Gomez returned to practice on Thursday from his stint as a Fox Sports analyst for its Copa America Centenario coverage, taking time afterward to discuss Lionel Messi’s Argentina and Clint Dempsey’s goal-scoring milestone.
Messi is scheduled to return from his back injury to face Panama on Friday, but his status from Argentina’s group-stage finale against Bolivia on Tuesday at CenturyLink Field could be complicated if his team has already clinched first-place.
“He’s not the best player all-time in his own country,” Gomez said of Messi. “They’re a very demanding people. They demand that you win and win everything. Until he wins that World Cup, he’s going to have that cloud hanging over his head. He’s a very good player and Argentina is a very good team.
“I feel like they’re a better team without him. The way they press defensively, you can’t do it if Messi is on the field. They’re very, very tough to play against in transition and I think they showed it. As stupid as this sounds, Messi could be a disruption to that.”
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Dempsey, meanwhile, scored his 50th career international goal in the USMNT’s 4-0 victory over Costa Rica on Tuesday in Chicago.
“I love Clint,” Gomez said. “Clint is a fighter and I respect a player like that. Players read everything. They listen to everything. They watch everything. They know when they’re being called out. I think he took it personal, and I love that. He went out there to send a message, that he’s not going anywhere – that if you’re a young guy trying to take his spot, he’s still here. You could see it from the moment they were lined up, just the look on his face.”
The Sounders trained on Thursday afternoon for the first time since their 2-0 win at D.C. United last week, taking a breath during MLS’ Copa-America-inspired lull. Seattle returns to action next weekend in the U.S. Open Cup against the upstart Kitsap Pumas.
“It’s good to see the guys,” Gomez said. “We had a few laughs and it made me realize just how missed the locker room. It’s good to be back.
“(Commentating) is a tough job. I didn’t realize what all it entailed and just how much work goes into it. … It’s mentally draining. It’s a lot of work and preparation. It’s nerve-wracking. But along with all of that chaotic mess, I enjoyed it.”