Clint Dempsey has been cleared to take part in all team activities, including games, for the Seattle Sounders. The news comes five months after Dempsey was sidelined with an irregular heartbeat, a serious medical issue that often requires aggressive treatment.
“As far as I know, I’m cleared for game action,” Dempsey said Tuesday, addressing the media for the first time since the announcement of his heart condition. “I’ve been playing (in preseason games) for 30 or 45 minutes. The minutes will keep going up, and we’ll keep pushing.”
Dempsey said he was somewhere between 85 and 90 percent of full fitness.
The Texas native began noticing problems early in 2016, but did not share precisely what symptoms affected him.
“(I first noticed it) around February,” Dempsey said. “It progressed through the year, trying to figure out what was going on. After Copa America, I started feeling more stuff.
“It’s difficult to explain. But I’m not feeling those things anymore and I’m happy to be back playing.”
If Dempsey reaches the same condition he had before being sidelined last season, the Sounders will reap rewards. Dempsey scored five goals in his final three matches, bolstered by the arrival of Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, with whom he quickly established a good chemistry and who also attracted defensive attention away from Dempsey.
“I think everybody could see what Nico brings to the team,” he said, “how he gets the ball moving and is able to make things happen a little bit more for us, in the attacking third especially. I’m looking forward to it. While we were playing together, I was having a great time.”
All indications are that Dempsey will contribute to Seattle’s first title defense, but the 33-year-old said the break allowed him to reflect on his career, in case that it was over.
“I’ve been lucky throughout my career, not missing much time,” Dempsey said. “I’m at peace with what I’ve done with my career. I’m happy, married, have four kids. I’ve got to enjoy life, and hopefully there’s more life to enjoy. That’s what keeps you grounded.
“I think there are more years to play. I just want to enjoy it and have my kids see me play a couple more years.”
Dempsey’s technical capability means that his career may stretch for several more years.