x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Excitement builds as Clint Dempsey ready to make MLS home debut for Seattle Sounders

Seattle Sounders fans rejoice at the arrival of US star, who was acquired from from Tottenham Hotspur for an estimated US$9 million, writes Mike Tierney.

Seattle Sounders acquired US standout Clint Dempsey from Tottenham Hotspur for an estimated US $9 million, an MLS record. Brad White / AFP
Seattle Sounders acquired US standout Clint Dempsey from Tottenham Hotspur for an estimated US $9 million, an MLS record. Brad White / AFP

The enthusiasm for the game of football in Seattle may soon be matched by a side more exciting to watch.

The Sounders, considered underachievers this season, this month set a Major League Soccer record for most expensive transfer when they acquired the American forward Clint Dempsey from Tottenham Hotspur for an estimated US$9 million (Dh33m).

Dempsey, who arrived in time for the final one-third of the MLS season, will be paid $5m per season, the most in MLS annals for an American player.

The Sounders' surreptitious courting of Dempsey electrified the fan base when word began to seep out. Someone in the social media-savvy city created a #DempseyWatch hashtag on Twitter that trended strongly. Some managed to pinpoint the plane that carried the midfielder into town for negotiations and converged on the airport to welcome him, only to be outfoxed when he slipped through an alternate exit.

Two nights later, on August 3, Dempsey stood with Joe Roth, the majority owner, on a podium at midfield before a Sounders match and removed a hoodie which revealed him in a familiar blue-and-green Sounders shirt. The episode was intended as an announcement of his signing, but the wired-in fans already knew. Several wore to the game replicas of Dempsey's No 8 jersey from the US national team.

Roth, in an interview with Sports Illustrated, described the excitement generated by Dempsey's arrival to "like Babe Ruth showing up. Grown men were hugging and crying".

Dempsey has appeared in two matches, and his home debut is likely to come on Sunday, when the Sounders play host to their arch-rivals, Portland Timbers.

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