Skip to content

So now comes the hard part: Where and how does Seattle play Clint Dempsey?

Aug 6, 2013, 12:44 AM EST

Colorado Rapids v Seattle Sounders Getty Images

Days before Clint Dempsey was introduced at CenturyLink Field, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid was on local KJR radio. Seattle had just opened a Designated Player spot by renegotiating Shalrie Joseph’s contract and with his team sitting outside of the playoffs, Schmid was asked what the team would be looking for in a new Designated Player.

Hoping to “add something significant,” the Sounders would be looking to strengthen their spine. “[D]efinitely somebody in the middle of the field,” Schmid told KJR, though he also told host Dave Mahler about the Dempsey rumors, “there’s really nothing to it. There’s nothing to say.” I’m not sure how much we can trust this guy.

Given what we learned today, the Dempsey deal seemed to come together relatively quickly. At today’s press conference, Adrian Hanauer told a story that stretched back two years, but from real start to end of this move, it was only a couple of weeks. Dempsey’s people made some calls in mid-July. Seattle quickly decided they wanted to do it. The league worked out how to pay for it, and after Dempsey gulped a few times and jumped, and the thing was basically over.

Now comes the hard part: the part where Schmid has to win games. That means finding a quick fit for Dempsey in Seattle’s system (or “a” Seattle system), as any prolonged adjustment period would leave the seventh place Sounders gone come November. With Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson already occupying spots up top, this is not a plug-and-play scenario.

If we’re willing to re-trust the guy a little, Schmid said wants help through the middle, which hints Dempsey’s likely to occupy an attacking midfield spot behind Seattle’s two strikers. With Osvaldo Alonso an obligatory starter at the base of midfield, that only leaves two more spots beyond Seattle’s defense and goalkeeper.

Among the candidates, there are two obvious choices:

  • The respect Schmid has for Brad Evans shouldn’t be underestimated. No matter the talent that Seattle’s acquired since joining Major League Soccer in 2009, a healthy Brad Evans has always been given a chance to contribute. If there are two spots available in midfield, Evan’s versatility and intelligence is sure to claim one.
  • The other selection is just as obvious, at least at the start. There’s a reason Mauro Rosales now wears the armband for the Sounders. Schmid has tremendous respect for what he brings to the team beyond his playmaking, skill on the ball, crossing and set piece delivery. Rosales slots into the other spot.

Getting those pieces to fit will be tricky. Do you go with a diamond in midfield? A line for three behind the strikers, with Evans (left) and Rosales flanking Dempsey, relying on Alonzo to be his typical, equalizing self? Or do you do something more tailored to your players? Perhaps playing Evans slightly left of middle, allow Rosales to play a right wing, and rely on Brad and Clint’s versatility to use and defend that left flank?

Or maybe Schmid takes a page out of Jurgen Klinsmann’s playbook are starts Eddie Johnson wide? With Rosales on the opposite side, the opportunity to cross onto an oncoming Johnson challenging a right back is tantalizing.

There are various ways to make this work, and the challenges go beyond merely putting the pieces together. When playing attacking midfield for the national team, Dempsey is often too easily forced into negative balls, at times leaving the U.S. with huge possession edges and little to show for it. The Kyle Beckermans and Hendry Thomases of the world are sure to take note, and if they’re able to force those wide and backward passes, the team might find itself unduly relying on Alonso’s and Evans’ distribution.

If, however, Schmid can get around that, perhaps utilizing Rosales’s skill set and allowing Dempsey the freedom to perform at his opportunistic best, there’s no reason this move can’t be as big as the rest of MLS fears. We’ll begin to find out Saturday in Toronto whether this is the turning point in Seattle’s season or the 2013 Sounders become the latest example of a talented team that just couldn’t make it work.

Latest Posts
  1. VIDEO: QPR’s Chris Ramsey “genuinely sick” after loss to Arsenal

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:51 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Charlie Austin played well, and the club truly appeared unlucky not to find an equalizer in the 2-1 loss. They were a step off all night.

  2. No. 1 seed DC United out of CONCACAF Champions League despite win vs Alajuelense

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:00 PM EST

    concacaf-champions-league

    The aggregate loss leaves the Montreal Impact as the lone Major League Soccer hope in the CCL semifinals.

  3. Neymar brace puts Barcelona in Copa del Rey final vs Athletic Bilbao (video)

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:16 PM EST

    Neymar, AP

    The clubs have played in 36 finals, second-most to Real Madrid’s 39.

  4. MLS, union come together to avoid calamitous work stoppage

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:58 PM EST

    New MLS logo Getty Images

    Clearly Nick Mendola’s open letter last night did the trick. You’re all welcome.

  5. Spitgate: Did Evans and Cisse spit at each other at St. James Park on Wednesday? Yep.

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:48 PM EST

    Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    The short answer is, “Yes. Yes they did.” Manchester United and Newcastle United had two more spits on target than actual goals on Wednesday.

  6. 2015 MLS Season Preview: D.C. United

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:15 PM EST

    DCUnited

    Last season a one-hit wonder? Not a chance. D.C. United is here to stay.

  7. Lloyd’s brace helps USWNT to winning start in comeback versus Norway at Algarve Cup (video)

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:14 PM EST

    Carli Lloyd (ussoccer.com) Carli Lloyd (ussoccer.com)

    The USWNT is looking to rebound from the 2014 Algarve Cup, where it finished in 7th after drawing Japan and losing to Sweden and Denmark.

  8. 2015 MLS Season Preview: Columbus Crew

    Mar 4, 2015, 6:30 PM EST

    Crew

    Columbus needs to build on last season’s success or see it flutter away in the winds of time. Can they seize the season?

  9. Rodgers, Henderson know Liverpool’s in form at the right time. How high can they climb?

    Mar 4, 2015, 6:19 PM EST

    Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Liverpool v Burnley - Anfield AP

    And all parties are sounding quite confident, almost in the cavalier “of course we won” tone we heard so much last season.

  10. Jose Mourinho says his Chelsea team “were brothers on the pitch” in crucial win

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:52 PM EST

    Blues battle to hard-fought win at West Ham, as Mourinho hails his sides display.

  11. Van Gaal hails win over Newcastle as “maybe our best match of the season”

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:38 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Manchester United needed a gift from opposing goalkeeper Tim Krul, but Louis van Gaal loved his club’s performance on Wednesday.

  12. Roberto Martinez blames fatigue for Everton’s struggles; have “10 cup finals” to survive

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:37 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-FA CUP-EVERTON-WEST HAM Getty Images

    After their 12th defeat of the season, the Toffees after sinking towards the bottom three.

  13. Liverpool 2-0 Burnley: Reds cruise with Henderson at the helm (video)

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:10 PM EST

    21a48a639b225b2f6c349a47a6799b1d Getty Images

    Burnley’s loss leaves them 19th, in the drop zone with 22 points.

  14. Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 Swansea City: Lloris saves it late for Spurs (video)

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Swansea sit ninth with 40 points, while Spurs sit 7th place. Tottenham is four points behind No. 5 Liverpool.

  15. Stoke City 2-0 Everton: Moses, Diouf pile more misery on the Toffees (video)

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    Potters continue to climb up the table, as Toffees head in the opposite direction.

  16. Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Arsenal: Red-hot Giroud helps Gunners to win (video)

    Mar 4, 2015, 4:50 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    It’s now five goals from his last five games for the Frenchman.