Sounders hopeful Dempsey will return in 2017

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The Seattle Sounders are gearing up for a title defense in 2017 and might be boosted by the recovery of its star player and captain Clint Dempsey, who was ruled out for the second half of the 2016 season with a heart condition.

In August, Dempsey was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and despite returning to training in September, a recurrence of the irregularity forced Dempsey to miss his side's entire MLS Cup-winning playoff run.

There's no word as to whether the U.S. national team forward has recovered, but Sounders general manager Garth Lagerway is optimistic Dempsey will be cleared to play some part in the upcoming campaign.

"Dempsey is participating now, he's running," Lagerway told ESPN FC. "Will he be 90-minutes match fit at the start of training camp? No, but nor will many of our guys given how long they played."

"We're going to take it easy at the beginning, but we'll ramp him back up slowly. You've got to be safe with him."

When the 2017 MLS season begins, Dempsey will perhaps have a chance to play some meaningful competitive minutes for the first time in six months, but Lagerway isn't sure if Dempsey will be cleared to play right away in March.

"We don't know. Sure, we're hopeful, but honestly, I don't know if we even control that," Lagerway said, when asked by ESPN FC if Dempsey would be ready for the start of the season.

"We are going to do our best to try to get him ready to play in a safe manner, and if it happens, great, and if it doesn't, then we'll be patient and wait as long as it takes."

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