The U.S. Men’s National Team and Seattle Sounders received good news Tuesday when three-time World Cup veteran forward Clint Dempsey was cleared to return to full game action after being sidelined last August with an irregular heartbeat.
Giving his first public comments since receiving the diagnosis last year, Dempsey said, “I feel like I’m finally getting close: 85 percent, 90 percent back to full fitness. Whether it’s the training staff here or in other places, everybody is on the same page of how I should be progressing. As of right now, everything is going great.”
Dempsey said he first began experiencing problems last February, but didn’t have any issues while leading the MNT to a fourth-place finish at last summer’s Copa America Centenario. While monitoring the situation with Seattle’s medical staff, he ultimately left his club side in late August to undergo a procedure. After returning to the field briefly the following month, complications arose again and he was eventually shutdown for the remainder of the Major League Soccer campaign.
In preseason thus far Dempsey played 30 minutes against Portland Timbers on Feb. 4 and a full 45 in a scrimmage against San Jose Earthquakes on Feb. 7.
While news of his return is encouraging for both Sounders FC and MNT fans, U.S. head coach Bruce Arena indicated last month that it was unlikely he would be back in the mix for March’s World Cup Qualifying matches against Honduras and Panama.
“You take six or eight months away from the game, it takes you a while to get back,” Arena told ESPNFC in January. “I’m just hopeful that when March comes around that he can be part of Seattle’s plans in Major League Soccer and as he continues during the season, hopefully he can come back to the National Team.”
Handed his MNT debut by Arena in a 1-1 World Cup Qualifying draw against Jamaica on Nov. 17, 2004, Dempsey is still keen on returning to play under the iconic U.S. coach again and still has eyes on a milestone fourth FIFA World Cup in 2018.
“I owe a lot to Bruce,” Dempsey told SoundersFC.com. “It’d be a dream to play in four [World Cups], not many people have gotten that opportunity… It would be great to get back in with the U.S. team, but to do that I have to do well here, and that’s the main focus.”