U.S. men's national team captain Clint Dempsey had been the subject of plenty of criticism following a lack of production upon his return to MLS. With four goals in two starts this season -- with the last three coming in a heroic performance against the Seattle Sounders' bitter rival -- that criticism might subside some.
Fresh off a two-game MLS suspension, Dempsey put the Sounders on his back and lifted them to a come-from-behind draw in Portland, netting a hat trick in a wild 4-4 draw Saturday and ruining an outrageous offensive display by the Timbers, who scored four beautiful goals of their own.
Dempsey's last two goals came within two minutes of each other in the dying moments of the match, with his 87th-minute penalty kick -- drawn by DeAndre Yedlin -- ultimately netting the point for Seattle.
Dempsey scored Seattle's second goal in the 24th minute, bringing the Sounders level at 2-2. After a Norberto Paparatto giveaway gifted the Sounders a counter in Portland's half, Obafemi Martins found an unmarked Dempsey at the top of the box, where he took a touch and easily finished low by Portland goalkeeper -- and former Sounders backup -- Andrew Weber.
Dempsey turned up the heat in the second half, peppering Weber's goal and nearly having a sublime assist to Martins, who put a point-blank header over the bar off a clever Dempsey pass. Dempsey pulled Seattle within 4-3 in the 85th with a finish from the center of the box before stepping to the spot and calmly finishing moments later.
Dempsey, who played 90 minutes against Mexico on Wednesday night in Arizona, has already surpassed his regular season output from last season, and then some, when he scored once in nine games after joining Seattle from Tottenham. He scored in Seattle's game against Toronto FC on March 15, but he was banned for the next two games after slapping TFC defender Mark Bloom in the, er, groinal region, and was inactive until the USA's 2-2 draw with El Tri. He now is tied for the league lead in goals with Colorado's Vicente Sanchez and Chivas USA's Erick Torres.
The hat trick is the third of his career, and the first since January 2012, when he notched two within a three-game span for Fulham -- one in the FA Cup, and one in Premier League play.
And yes, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann is pleased:
Great performance today from our captain Clint Dempsey. Congrats on the hat trick in a thrilling game against Portland!!— Jürgen Klinsmann (@J_Klinsmann) April 5, 2014
Watch his three goals below: