Major League Soccer Wednesday named Clint Dempsey of the Sounders, who missed the club’s championship playoff run last year after he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, as the 2017 Comeback Player of the Year. Dempsey scored 12 regular-season goals and five assists. He was the second player in franchise history, following Eddie Johnson in 2012, to win the award.
“Thank you for selecting me for this award,” Dempsey said in a statement issued by the club. “I would like to thank all the doctors who helped me, the Sounders organization and my family for their support. It’s been a great season thus far and I would like to recognize my teammates, the coaching staff and the trainers for making it happen. Last but not least, I would like to show love to the fans for always being there for us through thick and thin.”
After missing Seattle’s MLS championship last year, Dempsey returned in February. He has 29 appearances with 25 starts. He added two goals against Vancouver Nov. 2 in the second round of the playoffs.
“When he received his heart diagnosis last season, returning to soccer was far from our top priority,” said Sounders President and GM Garth Lagerwey. “Clint is a family man with a wife and four kids, and we wanted to make sure he could get back to living a long and healthy life for them. The fact that he was able to come back so soon and so strong impressed all of us, and we couldn’t have made it to where we are this season without him.”
“Said Chris Henderson, Seattle’s sporting director: “Clint’s ability to overcome this obstacle and return to his top form will no doubt add to his legacy as one of the best players in the history of U.S. Soccer. In addition to his elite technical ability, his grit and commitment to the game have always defined Clint as a player. This award should have a special place in the long list of accolades that he has earned throughout his career.”
The award was voted upon by players, club technical staff and media. Dempsey edged Federico Higuain of the Columbus Crew.
After defeating Vancouver in the Western Conference semifinal, the Sounders are preparing for the finals against the Houston Dynamo. The first leg is in Houston Tuesday (6:30 p.m., PT, FS1). The second leg is at the Clink 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 (ESPN).