Clint Dempsey is finally cleared to play again. The Seattle Sounders striker told reporters on Tuesday that doctors have cleared him for a full return to action for the first time since he was sidelined in August.
Dempsey declined to go into the details of the heart condition that kept him out more than six months, but said he is ready to return now.
“It was a medical issue. Everyone’s kind of talked about it. I don’t want to go that much into it. It’s kind of my business,” he said via Matt Pentz in Seattle. “But I’m cleared to play. I’ve taken the proper time out that I need to be out for what was going on and I’m feeling good now.”
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An irregular heartbeat first sidelined Dempsey in August, and he returned to training a month later, until he was ruled out for the rest of the year. As recently as last December, Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said they weren’t sure if Dempsey would ever play again.
Things have been going well for Dempsey since the new year, though. He saw his first action since earlier this month in a preseason match for the Sounders, but he was only cleared to play 30 minutes. Now, two weeks before the MLS regular season, he is cleared to go the full 90 minutes.
It’s unclear if this could change Bruce Arena’s mind about World Cup qualifiers in March. Arena previously ruled out Dempsey, saying it wouldn’t be “realistic” to expect Dempsey to fit into his plans that soon.
“As you know, you take 6-8 months away from the game, it takes you a while to get back,” Arena said. “I’m just hopeful when March comes around, he can be part of Seattle’s plans and Major League Soccer. Then as he continues in the season, hopefully he can come back to the national team.”
At the same time, Arena has lamented the lack of creativity in the USMNT’s ranks, which Dempsey can help address. While Arena seems to be eying players like Sacha Kljestan and Benny Feilhaber in a No. 10 role, he has pointed out that Dempsey as a withdrawn striker is able to impact the game in a similar way.
But before the USMNT is an option, Dempsey needs to get back to full fitness with the Sounders. The Sounders have three preseason matches this month, with their next one on Saturday vs. the Charleston Battery, where Dempsey will presumably get some minutes.