Clint Dempsey impresses in first practice with Sounders FC
Dempsey is not quite 100 percent but is expected to make his debut on Saturday in Toronto.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sounders FC @ Toronto FC, 4 p.m., KONG
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Teammate DeAndre Yedlin particularly marveled during a finishing drill, where one of the primary focuses was to get in position for rebounds. Dempsey, though, rendered that part useless.
“It was going to go in anyway; there was no point in even going in for (a rebound),” Yedlin said. “He finishes everything. It’s amazing. I’ve never really seen anything like it.”
There were other astounding moments Wednesday, as the U.S. men’s national team captain showcased his impeccable skill. About a dozen fans in attendance made sure to “ooh” and “ahh” at every crafty and clever touch in small-sided scrimmages.
Coach Sigi Schmid said: “It’s just like when we got Mauro Rosales and he tried out for us in Florida, within a half hour of the first practice we said, ‘OK, this guy can play.’ And it’s the same thing with Clint: You can tell he can play.”
Dempsey is far from 100 percent, however, heading into his expected debut Saturday in Toronto. He is recovering from an illness that forced him to miss practice Tuesday. He’s also still working on fitness since his previous club, Tottenham of the English Premier League, is in preseason.
“You could tell he was a little fatigued,” Schmid said.
Tired or not, Dempsey said he’s ready for a role this weekend “in some capacity,” and being impressed cut both ways after his first day.
“The level was good,” Dempsey said. “There is a lot of quality on this team.”
Schmid has stayed tight-lipped about how he specifically intends to work his versatile superstar into the lineup, offering just that Dempsey will play in the attacking third. The 30-year-old has played as a forward and midfielder in his career, and even as a midfielder he’s played on both wings and centrally.
“He’s a player who’s going to help orchestrate our game for us,” Schmid said, “but he’s also a player who has the ability to finish, so he’s going to be a very vital cog of our game. Our game is going to flow through him in certain aspects, and it’s going to be important for him to spread the ball.”
Dempsey knows adjustment will take time, and noted it helps having familiarity with a few of the guys. Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans also played for the U.S. in the last round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Shalrie Joseph was a teammate at the New England Revolution from 2004 to 2006.
“Once you’re able to help the team win in some capacity, whether it’s assists or getting goals, I think you start to get on a streak from there,” Dempsey said. “I think that’s the key getting settled in — once I get my first goal or assist.”
• Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who has missed three games with a sprained forearm, looks to be in line to return Saturday, according to Schmid.
• A sportswriter in Houston noted that Sounders FC’s estimated annual payroll of $13 million following the Dempsey signing is about the same as the Astros of Major League Baseball after some midseason moves.
• Yedlin was the punchline of a joke from late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday, who in a bit about MLS All-Stars, referred to Seattle’s young right back as “Most likely to have the nickname ‘Rihanna.’ ”
“That was funny,” Yedlin said. “I watched the YouTube video of it and, yeah, I was laughing pretty hard.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers