HOUSTON — Nacogdoches is an East Texas city of about 33,000 residents.
The visitor’s bureau calls it “the Oldest Town in Texas,” and brags that it was the first city in the state to install a ceiling fan in a downtown drugstore.
If that isn’t enough, Nacogdoches is home to Stephen F. Austin State University and the Texas Blueberry Festival, and is the birthplace of U.S. national team captain and Seattle Sounders FC designated player Clint Dempsey.
Dempsey will return to his home state and play about 140 miles south of his hometown Saturday night, when the Sounders visit the Houston Dynamo.
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“I’ll probably be getting like 40 tickets,” he said.
“Yeah, it’ll be great to see my family. It’s been (two) years since I’ve gotten the opportunity to play a game in Houston.”
The last time Dempsey played in Houston, his goal helped the U.S. national team beat Panama, 1-0, in a CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal match June 22, 2011, at Reliant Stadium.
The rooting interests might not be as clear Saturday night at BBVA Compass Stadium, where Dempsey and the Sounders will face the Dynamo in a game important to each team’s playoff hopes.
The Dynamo holds the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Sounders are tied for fifth in the West.
“I’m sure some people will be happy to see me, and some people will be looking forward to booing me — just like Toronto,” Dempsey said. “So that’s what comes along with that.
“I think it’s fun. That’s part of the game that everyone has to deal with. If I was a Houston Dynamo fan, I would want the same thing; I would want my team to win. But I’m with the Seattle Sounders, and I am going to do everything I can to help this team accomplish our goal to win the MLS Cup.”
Dempsey made his Sounders debut off the bench in last weekend’s 2-1 win at Toronto. He is expected to get his first start Saturday, as forward Eddie Johnson is serving a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation, and forward Obafemi Martins is out because of an ankle injury and family obligation. Midfielder Brad Evans also could be limited after playing in the USA’s victory at Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday.
“Our options up front are a little bit thin,” coach Sigi Schmid said after a training session Friday with Houston temperatures in the low 90s. “(Lamar) Neagle has played up there, so he pushes back up there. We’ve got Clint obviously who can play as that second forward, so that gives us two options there who are good options for us for sure. But then if we have to go to the bench and so forth, it’s a little thinner from that point on.”
The Dynamo roster is jammed with players who have Puget Sound ties.
Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall attended Gig Harbor High School. Forward Brian Ching attended Gonzaga and played for the USL Sounders. Defender Mike Chabala played at the University of Washington from 2002-05. Defender Anthony Arena of Kenmore played for Sounders U-23 last season. Forward Cam Weaver attended Kentwood High School and Seattle University, and played for the USL Sounders. And Houston coach Dominic Kinnear played for Seattle’s 1995 A-League champions.
“They’re a dangerous team,” Schmid said. “They’re always good at set pieces because of Brad Davis. Up front, Will Bruin has been a handful. (Giles) Barnes has played well. When Boniek Garcia and Davis are both on the field, that’s something that concerns you. There’s a lot of energy from (Ricardo) Clark. (Adam) Moffat’s got that good shot from distance. ... They’re a team that always figures out how to stay in a game.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer