Clint Dempsey medically cleared for training as comeback from heart problem continues
Clint Dempsey has been medically cleared to return to training, Seattle Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said on Tuesday.
Dempsey has been sidelined since August, when he suffered an irregular heartbeat. A month later, he was ruled out for the season and watched as the Sounders went on to win MLS Cup without him. He trained not long after first dealing with the issue and has trained on and off since. Now he's clear to get back into training and at a higher intensity than before.
Lagerwey said that Dempsey still has some work to do before he can play in any matches, but that Dempsey could play in some preseason matches. That's a major positive step for a player whose future has been in limbo, at least publicly.
How serious Dempsey's condition was and what effect it would have on his ability to play has been unclear. While the team was first optimistic he would return in the 2016 season, that proved not to be the case. New United States manager Bruce Arena said he thought Dempsey could join the team for January camp, but then he didn't make that team and Lagerwey highlighted how serious things were in December when he said that Dempsey's ability to ever play again was in doubt.
“Whether he plays soccer again, what level he can play, how long he can play, etc. Those are all things that we don’t know,” Lagerwey said at the end of 2016.
With so much uncertainty, and this being something as serious as his heart, Dempsey's status has been a mystery. Getting back into training and having preseason matches be on the table is certainly an encouraging sign, though. We'll see where he goes from here, from getting back on the pitch for the Sounders to potentially being in the mix for the Americans' March or June World Cup qualifiers.