It remains a possibility that Dempsey could return to action during one of the club's preseason matches, though general manager Garth Lagerwey stressed that he's not quite there yet.
Sounders forward Clint Dempsey has been medically cleared to return to training, participating in team drills during the opening morning of the club’s 2017 preseason on Tuesday at Starfire Sports in Tukwila.
Dempsey has been out since last August after an irregular heartbeat was detected following Seattle’s home win over rival Portland late that month. The 33-year-old temporarily returned to the practice field in September, having undergone an unspecified procedure in the meantime, only to get officially shut down for the season a few weeks later.
“We still have some steps to get through, but he’s continuing to progress,” Seattle general manager Garth Lagerwey said Tuesday. “We’re happy with his progression. We’re happy with his attitude. We’re happy with how far we’ve come. We’re excited about what the future may hold.”
Dempsey, the club’s highest paid and highest profile player, was spotted doing jogging and light drills throughout the team’s run to MLS Cup at the end of last season, but Tuesday marked the first time he’d returned to anything close to full participation.
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It remains a possibility that Dempsey could return to action during one of the club’s preseason matches, though Lagerwey stressed that he’s not quite there yet.
“The doctors have said it’s OK for him to train,” Lagerwey said. “We’ll continue to check in with them as we continue to progress him back. He’s a veteran player. He hasn’t played a competitive match in six months. There are real fitness concerns around him getting back into form and sharpness and doing so in a healthy manner. That’s what we’re going to be monitoring.”
Seattle kicks off its regular season on March 4 at the Houston Dynamo, with its home opener following two weekends later against the New York Red Bulls. Also of note: the U.S. men’s national team continues its World Cup qualifying campaign on March 24 against Honduras, heading to Panama four days later.
“He is healthy enough to train,” Lagerwey said. “That has been determined. But as I said, we’ve still got some milestones to hit along the way as we continue to progress with him. I don’t want to set any expectations, because we either will hit them or we won’t. We aren’t prepared to put any more structure on it than that.”
The Sounders will continue to train locally through Friday before departing for the Desert Friendlies in Tucson, Ariz., on Sunday.
“(Dempsey) looked pretty good,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. “He’s on a timeline, on his program. As a coach, I’m just happy to have him out here and hope to still see it progress.
“It’s not up to me, but I will say to you that everybody here hopes to see that timeline trend in a positive direction. But you never know. We don’t want to set any realistic expectations.”