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August 7, 2013 at 11:45 PM

Wednesday notes: Clint Dempsey impresses, Michael Gspurning looks ready to return

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Here are a few notes from Sounders FC practice Wednesday:

*     *     *

— This was, of course, Clint Dempsey‘s first day in action. I posted a Q&A with him earlier, and it was pretty clear throughout practice that he’s a special player, even while still recovering from illness. Said coach Sigi Schmid: “It’s just like when we got Mauro Rosales and he tried out for us in Florida, within half an hour of the first practice we said, ‘OK, this guy can play.’ And it’s the same thing with Clint: You can tell he can play. You could tell he was a little fatigued. There were maybe a few more runs he would have made, or he would have done this or that … but you can obviously tell his quality by his touches and so forth.”

— What did DeAndre Yedlin think of the new guy? “He finishes everything,” the young defender said of Dempsey. “There was a drill, and Sigi was telling us to get in for rebounds. I was (Dempsey’s) partner and I didn’t go in for rebounds because it was going to go in anyway. There was no point in even going in for it. He finishes everything. It’s amazing. I’ve never really seen anything like it.”

— More on Dempsey later, and he’s still in line for a debut Saturday in Toronto, but there was some good news on the injury front. Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who has missed three games with a sprained forearm, looks ready to come back, as he practiced the past two days in full. Indications are Marcus Hahnemann remains ready to go as needed, as well. Said Schmid: “We think we’re going to have the full complement of goalkeepers to pick from for this weekend.”

— The only guys still limited due to injury appear to be Steve Zakuani (sports hernia surgery), Alex Caskey (ankle surgery), Philip Lund (plantar faciitis) and Josh Ford (knee surgery). Not too bad, compared to past weeks.

— There are two non-roster guys still around as the transfer window is set to close Thursday: invitee Blair Gavin and academy product Henry Wingo. GM Adrian Hanauer noted Monday that no moves was imminent, and the deadline isn’t relevant to Gavin and Wingo. Teams can still sign free agents and make trades up until a roster freeze on Sept. 13.

— Going back to Yedlin, I asked the Seattle native how he felt about giving up his No. 2 to Dempsey. “I was all right (with it),” he said. “Obviously when a guy like Clint Dempsey comes in, and he’s been (No. 2) for most of his life, you’re not going to turn him down a number. I thought it was important he got that. (No. 17), I wore that in college and it’s (Fredy Montero‘s) old number, so it’s quite an honor to wear it. I’m excited. It’s like a rebirth.”

— Yedlin noted as soon as he heard the Dempsey news he had an idea he would be giving up his number. Apparently, negotiations for the rights to No. 2 have been resolved but Yedlin didn’t want to say what compensation was involved.

— Another issue coming up could be U.S. national team call-ups for an Aug. 14 road friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Options for coach Jurgen Klinsmann could be Dempsey, Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans, especially since its the last tuneup before a Sept. 6 qualifier at Costa Rica and then Sept. 10 vs. Mexico.

— Is that a concern? “Yeah,” Schmid said, “I’ve said to Jurgen, he’s making my job harder in trying to get into the playoffs if he keeps grabbing players from me. But it is what it is. I’d rather have players of that quality than not have players of that quality, but there are certain sacrifices that you’ve got to make along with that. So once they issue their final roster, we’ll know who’s going for sure, but you always have an idea. Jurgen and myself spoke this morning, we’re always in communication, so I sort of have an idea what’s going on, but we’ll be OK at the end of the day, because we have other people who can step in and play. I think the energy in our team right now is very good.” Certainly sounds like there will be a Sounder or two or three on the roster.

— Since a lot of people leaguewide want to know what Klinsmann thinks about Dempsey’s move here, I asked Schmid if he could share any of those sentiments. “Nothing that I can pass along,” the coach said. “That’s a question for Jurgen, and I’m sure when he gets asked that question he’ll be able to answer it appropriately.”

— Another topic that came up during Schmid’s interview was an Aug. 25 home game against Portland already being sold out. “Obviously it’s just tremendous,” he said. “I think after Clint’s signing they sold like 6,000 tickets right away. I think that just speaks volumes to what our ownership has done and stepped up. I think it’s a monumental step for the league. It’s great to see our fans respond to that. I’m sure if could open up the stadium to 72 (thousand), we’d have 72, which would be nice, because we’d set a new record. I think the Galaxy has the 69,000-fan record, so it’d be nice to sort of break that. But maybe we’ll save that to next year. We’ll get that one next year.”

— I’ll close with more from Schmid on Dempsey in Q&A form:

— Schmid on where Dempsey’s fit in on the field: “He’ll play an important role for us. As I’ve said before, he’s going to be in an attacking part of the field. He’s a player who’s going to help orchestrate our game for us, but he’s also a player who has the ability to finish, so he’s going to be a very vital cog of our game. Our game’s going to flow through him in certain aspects, and it’s going to be important for him to spread the ball to the Obas and the Eddies and the Neagles and all the other people.”

— Schmid on if he has an idea of an ideal starting lineup, even if he doesn’t want to share it: “As a coach, you always have an idea of what you’re going to do. But you’re right, I’m not going to share it. So you got that part of it right. There are things you think about. Sometimes what you think is going to work in your head, when you put it out there on the field, it doesn’t quite work the way you imagined it. So then you’ve got to tweak it a little bit and change it a little bit. It’s something that will take a couple of weeks. I know what lineup we’d put out if tomorrow was an MLS Cup final and a must-win, but I’d like better to get three, four games under our belt and then we’ll have a much better idea of how the whole makeup fits together.”

— Schmid on if he expects leadership from Dempsey: “I remember a coach once saying it this way, ‘He’s been around the block, but he hasn’t been in this neighborhood yet.’ So for him, he’s trying to get the feel of the neighborhood, as well, and at the right times then he’ll step forward. But the main thing is what good players do is in games, at critical moments, they step up and they take charge of the game. And that’s what we expect to see from him.”

| More in Practice notes

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