After being sidelined in September 2016 for the remainder of the MLS season with an irregular heartbeat, Seattle Sounders and U.S. men’s national team forward Clint Dempsey has been cleared to return.
On Tuesday morning, Dempsey confirmed that he was given the medical go-ahead to compete again.
“I feel like I’m finally getting close: 85 percent, 90 percent back to full fitness,” Dempsey said, per the New York Times. “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.”
Dempsey was characteristically unforthcoming about the specifics of his heart problem. “It was a heart issue. It’s something that’s difficult to kind of explain. But at the same time I’m not feeling those things anymore and I’m happy to be back playing.”
Dempsey’s club team offered few details as well. The Sounders’ press release said:
Dempsey said he first began experiencing problems last February. He felt fine while with the United States national team during the summer’s Copa America Centenario, but he and the Sounders’ medical staff monitored the situation before he ultimately left the team in late August to undergo a procedure. He returned briefly in September, but the complications arose again and his training stopped.
Though U.S. men’s national team coach Bruce Arena said in December that he hoped Dempsey would be available to return to the squad for the team’s January camp and World Cup qualifiers in March, he said last month that that timeline was unrealistic.
“The most important thing is his health right now,” Arena said.
At 33, Dempsey is the United States’ second all-time leading goal scorer, five goals behind Landon Donovan. If he plays in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, it will be his fourth World Cup.