Given that the signing of Clint Dempsey has made quite the splash in Vancouver and around MLS, I felt compelled to throw my two cents into the ring. The question: What does this player’s addition to the Seattle Sounders mean to the Vancouver Whitecaps? The answer: …. It means nothing.
In a nutshell, that is the point of this article, so if you are busy you can carry on with your affairs, but if you want to know why, you will have to continue reading.
For my arguments to have deeper impact, please remember that MLS is predominantly a US-based league. So, with that in mind, it must be acknowledged that the return of Clint Dempsey to MLS can be seen as a major win for the league. Think about it. He is the US National team captain, at the tender age of 30 (he’s only a couple of months younger than me) he still has quite a bit of football left in the tank and, on top of that, he is a Premier League veteran. These arguments have deeper meaning south of the border but there is still a good chance that he will bring more coverage and awareness to the league in markets and demographics that would not usually pay attention to MLS. More importantly, his decision to play in this league and especially the money he will be making will help attract other players with those credentials at earlier stages of their career (I know, it is ludicrous that he will be the best paid player in the history of the league, but that’s beside the point).
While the league as a whole will see some short, medium and perhaps long term benefits with this signing, our point of interest, the Whitecaps, will barely see any of them. Let’s start off the pitch. Clint Dempsey certainly does not enjoy the same kind of star power that other players have displayed in their stop in Vancouver. Let’s put it this way. If the Whitecaps had decided to open the upper bowl last summer when a Mr. Beckham honoured us with his visit, I am convinced that ticket sales would have jumped to at least 5 or 10 thousand extra tickets. Would the same scenario present itself next summer when Seattle comes back to town? I am hard pressed to believe it but I guess we will see. You can do your own non-scientific poll among your non-hardcore soccer friends and ask them which of the two aforementioned players they know and/or would be keen to go and see. In essence, Clint will not be putting any more bums in seats above the ones that were showing up anyway.
Now, at a football level, the notion that the addition of Clint Dempsey to Seattle’s roster makes our hardcore rivals an automatic favourite to take the MLS Cup is laughable naïve and misdirected. Yes, he is a player that falls into the “above MLS average” category and yes he will make them a better and harder-to-play-against team. But from there, making the leap to lock them down as the favourite is quite the stretch. Even at an older age, Thierry Henry is a substantially better player than Dempsey and the Frenchman, despite his more impressive resume, has not been able to take his team to Promise Land.
In fact, Jay DeMerit declared earlier this week that this move should only be a motivator for the Caps to beat the “big boys”. I will go further and say that Dempsey’s addition to the Sounders will be beneficial to the league and, as long as the MLS grows strong, so will the Whitecaps. So, without solid reasons on and off the pitch to argue that Mr. Dempsey’s return to MLS will have a meaningful impact on the Whitecaps, I am sitting pretty relaxed and so should you. But hey, as I said before, time will tell and if I am wrong, I am willing to eat my words but I am confident that it will not be the case.
Clint Dempsey is officially introduced: