Los Angeles (AFP) – United States forward Clint Dempsey has been given the all-clear to return to football following a six-month layoff due to an irregular heartbeat, US Soccer confirmed.
The Seattle Sounders striker, who had not played since last August, has already played 30 minutes and a full 45 minutes during pre-season action for the reigning champions of Major League Soccer.
“Right now the focus is getting through this year, playing (well) again and making an impact on the field,” Dempsey said on the Sounders website.
“The minutes will keep going up and I’ll keep pushing in training.”
Dempsey, 33, said he felt close to regaining full fitness and was keen to regain his place in the US men’s national team under new coach Bruce Arena in order to play at next year’s World Cup.
“I feel like I’m finally getting close: 85 percent, 90 percent back to full fitness. Whether it’s the training staff here or in other places, everybody is on the same page of how I should be progressing. As of right now, everything is going great,” he said.
US coach Arena said last month Dempsey was unlikely to return to the fold in time for crucial World Cup qualifiers in March against Honduras and Panama.
“You take six or eight months away from the game, it takes you a while to get back,” Arena told ESPN.
“I’m just hopeful that when March comes around that he can be part of Seattle’s plans in Major League Soccer and as he continues during the season, hopefully he can come back to the national team.”
Dempsey — who has handed his debut by Arena way back in 2004 — said he was anxious to link up with the US coach again.
“I owe a lot to Bruce,” Dempsey told SoundersFC.com. “It’d be a dream to play in four (World Cups), not many people have gotten that opportunity. It would be great to get back in with the US team, but to do that I have to do well here, and that’s the main focus.”