Clint Dempsey is seemingly closing in on a return to Fulham as part of a short-term loan agreement with the Seattle Sounders. The Premier League move would be a perfect opportunity for the American international to rediscover top form with the World Cup looming.
Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen announced in his press conference ahead of the club's clash with Manchester City that the veteran forward had already made his way to Craven Cottage for medical testing to expedite the process assuming a deal is officially reached:
The Head Coach also confirms Clint Dempsey has undergone a medical at the Club with a view to returning to #FFC— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) December 20, 2013
The club also noted the loan agreement would run through the first two months of 2014 if a deal is reached with Seattle. The Sounders' first game of the new Major League Soccer campaign is scheduled for March 8:
Dempsey would return for January and February if a loan deal is completed #FFC— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) December 20, 2013
It's an ideal situation for every party involved. Fulham get a player capable of providing a boost to their mundane attack, the Sounders know one of their top players is getting terrific preseason work and Dempsey gets a chance to rediscover top form.
The United States national team star scored 29 league goals over his final two seasons with the club before heading for Tottenham. His Spurs stay brought mixed results as he found the net just seven times in his only league campaign at White Hart Lane.
Things got even more frustrating after he opted for a return to Major League Soccer. Instead of taking advantage of the lesser competition on home soil, Dempsey tallied just a single goal in 12 matches, showcasing exactly the type of poor form U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was worried about.
Avi Creditor of Goal.com passed along comments from Klinsmann after his captain's move to Seattle became official, and he made it clear the onus was on Dempsey to keep making positive strides:
For Clint it’s a challenge, coming from one of the top leagues in the world, coming back to the U.S. and being back in MLS where we still have to work on a lot of things. Clint himself has set the highest benchmark for himself over the last year. He became our captain, and he has to keep that benchmark and he knows that. I told him that over the last two years that he’s got to go for the next level.
Obviously that didn't happen as Dempsey struggled to play at a high level during MLS' stretch run with the Sounders.
That said, going back to Fulham for a brief loan stint would be like pushing the proverbial reset button. He goes to a Premier League where he's enjoyed a lot of success in the past and should get plenty of opportunities to shine again.
The Cottagers are averaging less than a goal per match so far during the EPL campaign. When paired with a porous back line, it's easy to understand why they find themselves in the relegation zone with the season's halfway point on the horizon.
They hope bringing back an accomplished scorer like Dempsey, who Paul Carr of ESPN points out holds the club record for Premier League goals, can help revitalize the attack:
Clint Dempsey is close to a loan deal with Fulham. His 50 Premier League goals for Fulham are a club record.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) December 20, 2013
Given the American's track record and Fulham's offensive woes, he should step right into a key attacking role for Fulham if the deal goes through.
At that point, the pressure would be on Dempsey to find that former magic once again. The Sounders and the U.S. national team coaching staff would both be watching closely because his success will have a direct impact on their outlooks for 2014.
Would Dempsey return to form with Fulham?
The Sounders thought they were getting a game-changing player and instead received a forward who failed to make any type of substantial impact.
Looking ahead to next summer, the American squad finds itself in a very difficult World Cup group, and it's hard to imagine a path to the knockout rounds if Dempsey isn't playing well.
When Dempsey is at his best, he has no problem living up to those high expectations. But that clearly hasn't been the case lately. Assuming the loan deal goes through, he must use those two months to get himself back on track.
The talent is still there. He's continued to flash that at times for the national team, but he needs to show he can be a factor on a regular basis.
A return to Fulham would give him a golden opportunity to do exactly that.