For a couple of clubs separated by almost 5,000 miles, there are quite a few connections between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Seattle Sounders FC.
The London-based English Premier League club’s Saturday visit to CenturyLink Field will mark a reunion for Seattle forward Clint Dempsey, who played the 2012-13 season at Tottenham, and for former Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who played there from 2001-2004. Dempsey and Seattle forward Obafemi Martins also played against Tottenham many times while with EPL clubs Fulham and Newcastle, respectively.
“It’s a big team that plays in the Premier League — always manages to finish in the top five or six,” Dempsey said. “They have a great history, a lot of great players who have played for them, including (U.S. national team coach) Jurgen Klinsmann. … I had a good time there, good memories, and it’s a team that has a lot of quality in it.”
On the other side, Tottenham reserve goalkeeper Brad Friedel not only played under Sounders coach Sigi Schmid at UCLA, but credits him as one of the key figures of his long career in England and with the U.S. national team.
“I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for Sigi,” Friedel said Friday during a news conference at CenturyLink Field. “ … We have a mutual respect for one another. I think his track record in the MLS and with the university, and when he’s been with the youth national team speaks for itself. I can’t say enough good things about Sigi.”
Schmid spent much of this week walking a line between celebrating Tottenham’s visit and balancing its importance against the ongoing Major League Soccer season.
With this friendly falling in the middle of a two-week break in Seattle’s league schedule, Schmid said he plans to play mostly a first-11 lineup. However, he said that is more to maintain the Sounders’ rhythm for league play than to prove anything against an EPL visitor.
“We’re going to go out there, and we’re going to play, and we’re going to try and play well,” Schmid said. “They’re going to go out there … and they’re going to try and play well. To say we’re having a good run and we’re in this position in our league and it’s a measure of our league, I think people read too much into it when they look at it that way.”
While the Sounders stand atop MLS just beyond their season’s midpoint, Tottenham opens the Premiership season Aug. 16.
Saturday’s friendly will be Tottenham’s first match under new coach Mauricio Pochettino, who has his own goals for this day and the remainder of his club’s three-game North American tour.
“We expect a tough game because they are into their season,” Pochettino said. “ … We need to win, but not only to win, but to show a good philosophy. That philosophy is to practice exciting football: pressing, attacking football. We are at the start of the preseason to put the idea to the squad.”
A fresh start under a new manager sounded familiar to Keller, who remembers his time at Tottenham fondly, but also as a time of constant change as the club struggled to break through a kind of EPL glass ceiling.
“I had a lot of fond memories of my time,” Keller said Friday. “But it was always some disruption: I think I had four managers in my four years there. It was always tricky. And once again, Spurs come in with a new manager and trying to jump back into that elite status. But it’s a big London club that is still trying to get to that next level.”