SEATTLE — Clint Dempsey opened his 2014 scoring account last Saturday with a goal in Seattle’s 2-1 loss to Toronto FC.
On Wednesday, Dempsey is facing a two-game suspension for actions during that contest.
The report wasn’t specific as to what led to the punishment, but it is presumably for a low blow to TFC defender Mark Bloom that was a major talking point after the game.
No official announcement has been made by MLS.
Dempsey explained his side of the story of the Bloom incident on Saturday: “To be honest with you. I felt a hand on my back. I tried to hit it away and thought I was hitting his hand away. I understand that maybe I did catch him a little bit. I apologized to him about that, but for me, all I was trying to do was smack his hand from touching my back.”
There was other controversy surrounding Dempsey in that game — as captured in MLSsoccer.com’s Instant Replay — including a possible kick to Alvaro Rey and a tussle with Jackson, so it would seem possible those plays could have been involved in the decision process of the MLS Disciplinary Committee.
Dempsey would be set to miss Saturday’s road game at Montreal and a March 29 home game against Columbus. His first game back would be April 5 at Portland, likely following an April 2 friendly against Mexico with the U.S. national team.
Early indications from Seattle’s first two games are that the Dempsey many expected to see is here. He has a goal and assist in 123 minutes for the Sounders, already matching his production from his 921 minutes in 2013.
Dempsey, dating to last year, has either a goal or assist in his past three regular-season games. Including the MLS playoffs, he has factored into a scoring play in four of his past six outings.
So is the pressure off?
“I don’t look at it like that,” he said after scoring Saturday against Toronto. “I keep the same mindset — going out, working hard and trying to get as many goals as possible. … So far I’m happy with the first two games in terms of getting a goal and an assist, but I have to keep pushing, and there is more to come.”
The production, though, will quiet the critics, even if Dempsey’s influence has stretched deeper in his orchestration of Seattle’s attack. As head coach Sigi Schmid said, “People always look at numbers.”
Numbers, of course, were what had many frustrated with the loan to last-place Fulham. While Dempsey was getting over a few injuries and getting time in one of the world’s best leagues, many noticed his stats: no goals, no assists, no wins.
“When you’re in a team that’s losing and you’re in a losing trend, it’s hard to get out of that, even if you’re a quality player,” said Sounders sporting director Chris Henderson.
“It’s just the mood of the team. So when he got there, that’s how it was going.
“You can see a change in his game now. He has more energy. He can have a bigger impact on the games here and he’s started off great for us. He feels comfortable and he feels like he’s going to lead the team.”
One aspect that has been particularly encouraging is Dempsey’s developing partnership with the team’s other high-priced star, forward Obafemi Martins. It was Martins who set up Dempsey’s goal against Toronto, and the two have been linking up regularly in games and practice.
Injuries and call-ups limited the pair to just 109 shared minutes last season. They have already been on the field together for 123 this year.
“It’s been fun to see,” Henderson said. “Good players find a way to get the ball to each other and break down defenses, and that’s what they both do well.
“You’re starting to see as the more they get used to each other, they’re starting to jell and look for each other. That’s going to be a really important combination, because both of them can change a game in a moment.”