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Aug, 21, 2013

Clint Dempsey set for home debut

TUKWILA, Wash. -- Clint Dempsey knows a good rivalry. He played in two of England's biggest when Fulham would face Chelsea and later when Tottenham Hotspur would take on Arsenal.

He'll get a taste of the biggest soccer rivalry in the states on Sunday night.

A crowd of 67,000 is expected for Clint Dempsey's first game in Seattle on Sunday night.

"Those games are exciting," Dempsey said. "It's little victories that you get during the season that sometimes can turn a season around."

Not that a match between Seattle and Portland needed any more electricity, but the clash between the heated Northwest rivals will get an added jolt when Dempsey is expected to make his home debut before a crowd that will probably top 67,000.

Just over two weeks ago, Dempsey was introduced to a roaring crowd as Seattle's newest designated player before a home match against FC Dallas, completing a transfer from Tottenham back to Major League Soccer.

If Dempsey was taken aback by that initial reception when he was unveiled at midfield by Seattle's ownership, Sunday night might be a bit overwhelming.

If the Sounders can top the 67,000 mark, it would represent the second-largest regular season crowd in MLS history.

"The game versus Dallas where the presentation was, that was incredible. That was like a movie," Dempsey said Wednesday. "So I can't even imagine when the whole stadium is completely packed and they are behind us. We'll feed off that energy and do everything we can to make sure they go home happy."

Dempsey is still adjusting to his move back across the Atlantic to rejoin MLS. He was in the beginning stages of preseason training with Tottenham when the wheels began turning on the deal that brought him to Seattle.

He played about 60 minutes in his first match with Seattle, a victory at Toronto, then went the whole way in a 3-1 loss at Houston last weekend. Dempsey has yet to record a goal or assist in his two games, despite creating a number of chances.

"You need to make sure you're playing good, connecting passing, creating chances. When you are doing that it eventually will come. You don't stress too much," Dempsey said. "When you're not creating chances that's when you start to worry. We created chances last game. I should have scored last game, but happy that we're getting good looks. It's just a matter of time."

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid still believes Dempsey is a few weeks away from finding his regular season form, likely around the time he would be joining the U.S. national team for World Cup qualifiers at Costa Rica and versus Mexico.

"He's still a little bit in preseason. He and I talked about that today," Schmid said. "I said I don't want him to put too much pressure on himself. He puts pressure on himself enough as it is. I just want him to relax and play and the goals and assists will come."

Even if Dempsey isn't scoring goals yet, he's left his new team impressed. Schmid said he marvels at the speed and quickness of Dempsey's footwork. Midfielder Shalrie Joseph was Dempsey's teammate during his first stint in the MLS with the New England Revolution before he left for Fulham. Joseph said Dempsey has far more confidence in his skills now than when they were first teammates.

"In New England, he was still trying to prove himself," Joseph said. "Having done so much and established himself into a great player he still works hard, still gets on the ball and he still does great offensive things but his demeanor about him is he just wants to win everything he plays."

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