Like most people, Vancouver Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit was shocked to hear that his good friend and former international teammate Clint Dempsey was making a return to Major League Soccer.
The U.S. national team skipper, who started his professional career with New England Revolution, officially joined the Seattle Sounders over the weekend after spending a season with Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League.
The news came as a surprise to many, including DeMerit, but he wasn’t hesitant in expressing his support of the move – even with Seattle being one of Vancouver’s biggest rivals.
“Sometimes you have to go beyond our own individual side and even your team,” he told reporters Tuesday at UBC. “You’ve got to think about the bigger picture sometimes and having a guy like Clint, with his qualities, come back to this league shows that the league is growing and that’s better for all of us.”
Most Whitecaps FC players and coaches were singing a similar tune on Tuesday. Head coach Martin Rennie said the signing has already created more interest and buzz around the league and will continue to do so.
Striker Kenny Miller, meanwhile, said it was a major “coup” for the league and potentially a sign of things to come.
“There are a lot of guys back home and there are a lot of guys in Europe that are hoping to get out and join MLS and join the growing number of players who are making the move,” Miller added.
As a former U.S. national team defender, DeMerit is well aware of Dempsey’s capabilities. The two have played together on several different occasions – they were both key members of USA’s 2010 World Cup squad – and remain good friends.
The acquisition of Dempsey, who is still in the prime of his career, makes Seattle one of the best – if not the best – team in the league on paper, according to DeMerit. After all, the 30-year-old attacking midfielder is Fulham’s highest English Premier League goalscorer of all time.
That’s something the ‘Caps will use as motivation when they visit Seattle in October.
“In a way, it kind of inspires you to go on and try to beat the big boys,” said DeMerit, who will likely be available for selection by that time.
The Sounders currently sit seventh in the ultra-competitive MLS Western Conference – two points behind the fifth place ‘Caps.
Instead of worrying about Dempsey or the impact he may have on the Sounders, however, DeMerit said the ‘Caps need to focus on keeping their own concentration with the final stretch of the season approaching.
“Ultimately, what we have to do is worry about ourselves,” he said. “There are enough guys in our locker room that we can compete with the best teams, no matter who they add … Seattle included.”