Over the last six years, Clint Dempsey has become the face of Seattle Sounders FC. With 47 MLS regular season goals in Rave Green, tied for the most in club history, "Deuce" has been a household name for soccer fans both locally and nationally, helping the team win a Supporters Shield, two Western Conference Championships, and an MLS Cup in 2016.
Sure, he didn't play in the 2016 MLS Playoffs due to a heart condition, but Dempsey factored on that team both on and off the field, and famously said in the championship celebration at Seattle Center, "now that we won one, Portland can't say s***!"
If Portland fans are saying anything now, it should be, "thank you (for retiring)" Dempsey scored nine career goals against the Timbers, most of any Sounders player facing Portland, and always seemed to score the biggest goals at the most inconvenient times for the Timbers.
Dempsey leaves as the all-time leading scorer in the Cascadia derby history while tied for career goals with the United States Men's National Team at 57. For that, all American soccer fans should say, "thank you."
When discussing the greatest American soccer player of all time, the debate is heated. Some will say Landon Donovan, who Dempsey shares the goal record with. But here in the Northwest, most will say "Deuce", the man nicknamed for his number. Dempsey will never have a chance to hold the top spot in both the Sounders and USMNT goal record categories alone, but his impact will never be forgotten.
Dempsey released a statement upon the news of his retirement, effectively immediately, which said:
"After a lot of thought, my family and I have decided that this is the right time for me to step away from the game. I'd like to thank all of the teammates, coaches and support staff that I've worked with throughout my career. It has always been my dream to make it as a pro. I'm grateful to have been on this ride. I would like to thank all of the fans who have supported me throughout my career with the New England Revolution, Fulham, Tottenham, Seattle Sounders and the U.S. Men's National Team. Y'all have always made me feel at home, and it is something that I will always remember."
Dempsey joined Sounders FC in August 2013 as the team's new Designated Player, bringing a legacy from New England, Tottenham, Fulham, and the National Team that accounted for dozens of goals and unparalleled skills. Quickly, he was on every commercial in the country that promoted MLS, becoming the face of the Sounders and league.
In his first full season with the team in 2014, Dempsey and forward Obafemi Martins connected for countless goals and carried the club to their first Supporters Shield as well as a fourth U.S. Open Cup victory. Dempsey also led the team in goals in 2017, during the team's run to a second consecutive Western Conference Championship.
"When Clint arrived in Seattle in 2013, in many ways it was a defining moment for our club," said Sounders FC Owner Adrian Hanauer. "His signing represented a new era in Major League Soccer, allowing our country's most accomplished player to return home and drive the game to new heights domestically. Five years later, there's no doubt in my mind that Clint helped us achieve that, both on the field surrounding our club's success over the past several seasons, and in our community. In particular, I know many were inspired by Clint's resolve in returning to the field last season from a major health issue, and that character is something I'll remember most about him. Clint is a fighter, and he'll always be a Sounder. We thank him for all he's done for our sport."
Dempsey also finishes as the only American to score in three consecutive FIFA World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014) and his 57 Premier League goals are equal to the total number of goals scored by the next three Americans in PL action... combined. "As far as I'm concerned, Clint Dempsey is the greatest player in the history of our country," Garth Lagerwey, Sounders FC President of Soccer and General Manager, said.
Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer also released a statement, which said:
"It's been an honor to coach Clint Dempsey for the past five years. As a soccer fan, I admired his game and his career for years before he came to Seattle, and to coach a player with his quality is any manager's wish. I'm very happy that he decided to share his talents with the Sounders community and I wish him luck in the next chapter of his life."
While Dempsey's 2018 season has not been as successful, one goal in nine starts and 14 games while plagued by injuries, his legacy in Seattle, New England, and in Europe, should overshadow the last six months- by far.
For a man who just wants to fish and score goals, the goal-count may stay the same, but his fishes-caught statistic will undoubtedly rise rapidly. With a wife and four children, Dempsey will have more time to spend on the water, when he is not spending time with his family.
So, is Clint Dempsey the greatest American soccer player of all time? Is he the greatest Seattle Sounder of all time? Time will tell in stories told by supporters throughout the nation and world.
Whether the answer is yes or no, all should be saying the same sentiment: Thank you, Deuce.