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August 21, 2013 at 4:21 PM

Catching up with Clint Dempsey ahead of his home debut Sunday against rival Portland

dempsey mug 2013Sounders FC designated player Clint Dempsey met with the media after practice as he looks forward to his home debut. It also happens to come against the rival Timbers with about 67,000 fans expected at CenturyLink Field.

Here is a full transcript of the interview:

*     *     *

(On the soccer vibe in Seattle and when he knew about it…) “Well, I knew about the experience and atmosphere playing a World Cup qualifier here. But yeah, Seattle wanted me the most, they made the biggest push for it, and I’m excited to be here. They get 40-plus thousand to each game. Look at the game this weekend: I think it’s 67-, 68,000. It’s huge here. It’s one of the top crowds in the world. I think it’s top 30, something like that. I’m excited about playing here and hopefully we can do something special.”

(On if he thinks other USMNT players will come…) “Sure. I think if the opportunity is there, people would love to come and play for this team. It’s in a great market. People got to experience that playing in the World Cup qualifying game. Also players that are in the league get to experience it. I think there’s definitely a possibility in the future that people might want to go here, but sometimes it’s out of your control. You need a team to want you to make it happen. But yeah, it’s a great organization.”

(On what he’s noticed about Northwest soccer culture since he’s arrived…) “It’s great. They have their diehard fans who march to the games. They have fans going to away games and have a section. Before when I was playing with the Revs, it really wasn’t that organized as far as away games. They’re loud; they stay behind you the whole time. Even in Houston when we were losing, the fans were behind us the whole way. That’s something that’s priceless. We have to keep working hard, make sure we pay them back for their travel and sacrificing to come cheer us on. And like I’ve said, hopefully we can bring an MLS Cup here.”

(On what his family in Texas said about the traveling support…) “They said it was great. They said they were wild, but they’re organized. They had their songs on cards and stuff. They said they supported their team the whole way through, even when we were losing 3-1. Like I said, that’s priceless. That’s real fans and we have to pay them back for that.”

(On if his family learned some of the songs…) “Yeah, they did. They showed me some of them. It’s cool. It’s great. It shows that they’re passionate, they’re really behind this team, and we want to do well here. We have to start getting results and make sure we put ourselves in a position to get into the playoffs because without that you don’t have a chance of trying to win the Cup. That starts this weekend versus Portland.”

(On what he’s learned about the rivalry with Portland…) “It’s big. The fans are really going to be up for it, as you can see — 67,000-68,000 fans coming out to the game. But yeah, I’m used to the derbies and used to the rivalries and I understand the importance of it. Hopefully I can open my account this weekend against them.”

(On derby matches in England…) “It’s bragging rights. It’s going to be an intense game; people are going to fight to the end. You know how much it means to the fans and making sure they go home happy. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that happens.”

(On his best memories of derby matches in England…) “Yeah, I had some good memories playing with Fulham, getting some goals against Chelsea. Those games are exciting. It’s little victories that you get during the season sometimes that can turn a season around. Hopefully we get the right result on the weekend and that gives us that push to get on a good run of form and make sure we get in the playoffs.”

(On if he’s excited to see the atmosphere at CenturyLink with 25,000 more fans than the World Cup qualifier…) “For sure. Even the game versus Dallas, where the presentation was, that was incredible. That was like a movie. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when the whole stadium is completely packed and they’re behind us. We’ll feed off that energy and we’ll make sure we give everything we have to let them go home happy.”

(On USA-Mexico and some of the most heated rivalries he’s been a part of in his career…) “To be honest with you, any of the games in the World Cup qualifiers is tough, especially away from home. Every game is so important, so I see all those games the same really, to be honest with you, because they’re must-wins — especially at home. If you don’t win games at home, you’re not going to qualify for the World Cup. Rivalries are important, it gets people up for the game, and you need to make sure that you get the right result because you can feed off that and it can turn things around for you.”

(On if he ever thought he’d see an MLS game with over 65,000 fans…) “You don’t ever know what’s going to happen. There’s always surprises and it’s great things are moving in that direction. The game is growing here, as you can see—more franchises popping up, more soccer-specific stadiums. It’s awesome to be a part of helping continue the growth of the game here. The most important thing is to make sure we’re successful here in Seattle and we get the job done. That’s what the focus is.”

(On how the partnership with him and Eddie Johnson coming along…) “In training it’s been good. We’ve only gotten to play in one game together so far for 60 minutes, but I thought training went well today. There was some good movement. It’s good to have him back because he’s a player that’s dynamic and he scores goals. It takes pressure off you as a team because players have to worry about his speed and the way he is in front of the goal. The more quality players you have on the field, the easier it makes it for everybody else, so it’s good to have him back in the lineup.”

(On if he’s feeling pressure to get his first goal for Sounders FC…) “Yeah, you always want to get goals or get assists or be part of a play that leads to a goal. You need to make sure you’re playing well—connecting passes, creating chances. When you’re doing that, it will eventually come, so you don’t stress too much. If you’re not creating chances, that’s when you start to worry. We created chances last game—I should have scored last game—but I’m happy that we’re getting good looks and it’s just a matter of time.”

(On hearing that grown men were crying in the stands during his introduction…) “I guess it makes you feel good. It means people care that much about the game. I’ve cried before after losing in the final of the Confederations Cup. It means you’re passionate about it and it’s something that means a lot to you. Who’s to say what would have happened if I never would’ve made it as a soccer player? I would have been a fan watching games and rooting for teams. I remember when I was little it would ruin my day if my team lost. That’s why we have to make sure that in those games that you know what it’s like to be in their situation and give everything you have. If you give everything you have, you can always look in the mirror and feel good about yourself.”

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