TUKWILA, Wash. – Fresh off a combined 14 hours of flight time on Thursday, Seattle Sounders midfielder Clint Dempsey still managed to look ready for Saturday's MLS opener against defending MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City.
After spending the previous two months on loan at English Premier League side Fulham, the U.S. international practiced with his Seattle teammates for the first time this season. And while there were plenty of new faces with which to familiarize himself – Seattle brought in a total of 14 different players during the offseason – he seemed eager for the campaign to start, despite the jet lag he incurred after playing in the United States' 2-0 friendly defeat to Ukraine on Wednesday.
"I feel good, training went well today, I was able to get some goals," he said after Friday's training session. "I'm looking forward to helping the team any way I can [Saturday]. Yeah, there will be a little bit of an adjustment period getting to know some of the new guys, getting everybody on the same page."
Seattle manager Sigi Schmid refused to be drawn in as to how he would use Dempsey against Kansas City or when, only confirming that the player would be in the 18-man roster. But Schmid indicated that he liked what he saw, especially given how Dempsey struggled with injuries last season.
"[Dempsey] is definitely fit, for sure," said Schmid following practice. "He's fit because you look at the games that he's played, and he's also fit from the standpoint of having worked with a coach like Felix Magath. From that standpoint he's ahead of where he was when he came to us last year. That's a good thing."
Looking at his loan stint from a pure numbers standpoint, it seems like the time Dempsey spent in London was hardly worth it. In seven league and cup appearances, he failed to score with Fulham losing six of those matches. During that period, the club fired its manager for the second time this season. Martin Jol was fired in December prior to Dempsey's arrival, and was replaced by Rene Meulensteen. Then Meulensteen was fired in February, replaced by Felix Magath. The Cottagers are currently bottom of the EPL table, four points from safety.
"You would have liked to have done better, you would have liked to have helped the team out of the situation," said Dempsey. "It was a difficult situation when I was going over there because of the position they were in the table. And it's never easy for the boys when you've had three managers in three months."
But Dempsey added that the loan did have its benefits.
"The big thing was to get my body right, to get my fitness up coming off some injuries," he said. "I was out for four-and-a-half weeks with the calf injury that I had. It took a little bit of an adjustment getting back to playing on the pitches over there when it's been the most rain that it's been since they started keeping records; getting used to wearing studs again from playing on turf. It was a good experience."
Dempsey also admitted he was pleased to part on better terms with the club, as opposed to back in August of 2012, when he forced a transfer to Tottenham Hotspur.
"I wanted it to end better with people inside the club, because it's a club that gave me my start when I went to Europe, and I had some good memories there," he said. "It was good to go over there and end on a good note as far as that was concerned."