Reporters got a chance to chat with Sounders FC’s Clint Dempsey after Monday’s practice. The designated player has taken 41 shots in 11 games, already more than Landon Donovan this season (40 shots in 23 games), but Dempsey has been able to find the back of the net just once.
He had at least four good looks in Saturday’s first leg against Portland, a 2-1 loss at home, including two free-kicks, a left-footed shot in the box that went inches wide and a header just before the final whistle.
“One day,” said coach Sigi Schmid, “all those things are going to turn the other way, and I feel sorry for the (opponent) when it does.”
Here is a transcript of our chat with Dempsey:
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(How are you and the group feeling going into this second leg?) “Very excited. This is what it’s about — playing in the playoffs. If you can’t get up for these games, then you shouldn’t be playing. It’s an opportunity to go down there and try to do something special. If we’re able to get the right result, it will keep us alive. That’s what we plan on doing.”
(Time for the big-time players to step up?) “Yeah, you got to go out there and give everything you have on the field. I think we have the quality on this team that we can get the job done. We just have to believe in ourselves, go down there and work hard. I think everything else will kind of take care of itself.”
(Do you feel you’ve been playing well?) “Yeah, I feel like I’ve been playing well. My fitness has been good from the numbers that they’ve showed me. Being able to open my account against the Galaxy and then play a part in the Colorado game, getting an assist in a playoff game, is important. Last game, I had some good looks on goal. I was a little bit unlucky hitting the post, the ‘keeper made a good save, then had one that was cleared off the line that they called a goal kick when it hit someone in the thigh. But I’m happy with the way that I’m playing. Just want to win. Hopefully we’ll get the job done this next game.”
(How do you keep from getting discouraged when it looks like by all measures that you should have more than one goal based on your chances?) “I don’t really worry about that. I just go out and play. I’m having fun out on the field. It’s just a matter of time; things will eventually start to go your way. It’s not going to be easy. It’s a rollercoaster ride. That’s what a season is; that’s what soccer is. Things can change quickly. You can go from things being bad to great and from great being back to bad. Look at us: we were on a great run of form, then all of a sudden we were on a terrible run of form. You have to find that form again. All it takes is one good game. All it takes is a goal sometimes and it turns things around. That’s what’s always so exciting about this game to me.”
(How nice would it be to get Obafemi Martins back?) “Yeah, you want to have as many players available as possible. He’s one of our DPs. He has a lot of quality and he has a lot of experience. If he’s available to play, then that’ll be great. You’d like to see … what’s going to be that best XI that we can put on the field. At the end of the day, it’ll be a difficult game playing them, playing away from home, but we also have to go out there and play with confidence and leave everything out there and have no regrets.”
(How would you say your time here has gone to expectations?) “It was going to be a challenge, I knew, coming back to the States, playing in this league and getting used to it again. And coming into a new team, everybody was in midseason already or past that. Me, I was pretty much preseason with Tottenham at the time, so I knew it was going to be a challenge. Injuries didn’t help, but I’m happy to be here and looking forward to this game coming up and hopefully keep this season going, because I don’t want it to end.”
(Did you envision these big games and big moments?) “You want to be in playoffs, and that’s what’s going to happen in any playoff game. It’s going to be difficult. It’s not going to be easy. It’s two legs — home and away — and you have to make sure you do a good job in both games, either not conceding too many and not getting too confident thinking you’ve got this wrapped up. All it takes is one goal and you’re back in the game. We have to make sure that we come out and get that first goal.”
(What do you make of Portland’s road crowd and how you’ll manage their energy?) “I don’t really worry about that energy. I just worry about the team and us getting on the ball and playing and creating chances. That’s what’s going to affect it, the work that you put on the field. That’s not really going to have an influence on us. Obviously they’re going to be behind them, and that’s going to push them, but at the same time, we have to find it within ourselves, that energy to go out there and just play to the best of our abilities. I hope that we can do that.”
(Have you felt you’ve developed some consistency and rhythm the past couple games?) “Yeah, it’s been good. We’ve been working on a lot of shape, and becoming more organized, and making sure that everybody’s is more familiar with the system and how our movements are going to be going forward in the attack and defensively, and just having more fluidity to our game and creating more chances. I think that we created a lot of chances last game. Yeah, it would’ve been nice if we’ve could’ve played better balls in our movement through the middle and linking up with passes. At times maybe we played a little bit direct, but that also was effective in the second half, and we got some chances off of that — the long throw and some of the kicks in the end going into the box, some crosses were able to cause them some problems. We just have to go out there and keep creating chances, and when you create chances, you always have a chance to score. That’s all we need. We need one goal and that will be huge for us. Hopefully we can get that first one.”
(How do you rate this rivalry to ones you’ve experienced?) “It’s a good rivalry. There are a lot of fans that come out and support both teams. They’re very passionate — the away support for both teams. It’s teams that don’t really like each other, so it adds to it, as well. It’s going to be a tough environment and a tough game, but I think that’s what it’s all about. … You never know what’s going to happen. I think that’s what’s called for in order for those rivalries to be more special, rather than to be lopsided or one-sided.”