Sounders-Toronto FC Preview

The Associated Press

Clint Dempsey's return to MLS with the Seattle Sounders created a major buzz among soccer fans in the United States.

The Sounders are being coy about his status this weekend, although it appears the superstar will make his club debut - north of the border.

Seattle has gone 327 minutes without a goal on the road in MLS play, and Dempsey could help change that Saturday night against Toronto FC.

Dempsey's six-year spell in England officially came to an end after Tottenham Hotspur announced last Saturday it reached an agreement to transfer the United States forward to the Sounders.

The U.S. national team captain began his pro career with New England in 2004. He enjoyed one of the most successful careers in Europe by an American player with 57 Premier League goals combined for Fulham and Tottenham.

"Each year was getting more difficult to go back and I think everything just has to do with timing," the 30-year-old Dempsey said. "The Seattle Sounders moved mountains to get me here. It was an opportunity to come back when I was in my prime and continue growth in the league and it's a challenge."

Lured back by a salary believed to be among the biggest in MLS, Dempsey trained with Seattle (9-7-4) for the first time Wednesday. Coach Sigi Schmid did not comment on how or if he would use Dempsey, who has been bothered by an illness.

"He's going to be in the attacking part of the field," Schmid said. "He's a player who's going to help orchestrate our game for us but he's also a player who has the ability to finish."

Toronto FC (4-10-8) was reportedly one of the three MLS clubs Dempsey was interested in joining along with Seattle and Los Angeles.

The Sounders have outscored Toronto 10-3 in winning the last four matchups but have no goals during a three-match road winless streak.

Seattle has seven goals in 10 road games for the league's fourth-worst ratio.

Midfielder Shalrie Joseph could return after missing the last four games with a calf strain. Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning will likely see action for the first time since July 13 after being out with a forearm strain.

Seattle is seventh in the crowded Western Conference standings but has played two fewer games than every other West club.

Toronto is looking to the future with the league's third-fewest points with 20.

Manager Ryan Nelsen skipped Wednesday's 4-1 exhibition loss to Italian club Roma to try to help sign a player, but Toronto did not make a move.

Toronto is coming off back-to-back MLS wins, the first time that's happened since winning three in a row July 11-18, 2012. The club won 2-1 over Columbus on July 27 and 1-0 at New England last Sunday.

Those victories came without Robert Earnshaw, who has a team-high six goals. The forward will return from a three-match absence due to a hamstring injury after playing 45 minutes Wednesday.

"It was good to be back," Earnshaw said. "When you're out two or three weeks, it's not nice, it's not nice to watch the team, you just want to get back and playing."

Toronto defender Steven Caldwell played against Dempsey when he was in England with Burnley.

"It's not about Clint Dempsey, I'm sure he will be the first to tell you guys that as well," Caldwell said. "It's a team game we're playing and Clint will be certainly improving the team but they have a lot of good players."

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