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Stoppage Time: Dempsey's decision remains puzzling, but makes sense

<p>It was only one year ago that Clint Dempsey was trying to negotiate a move from Fulham to a team with Champions League ambitions.</p>

(Sports Network) - It was only one year ago that Clint Dempsey was trying to negotiate a move from Fulham to a team with Champions League ambitions.

Dempsey was coming off of a season in which he led Fulham with 17 goals in league play, but he had, in his estimation, become a bigger fish in need of a new pond.

The United States international was attempting to secure a move away from Craven Cottage to a team that he felt could compete for a Champions League place to further his development.

He ended up at Tottenham, and although Spurs fell just short of reaching Europe's premier club competition, Dempsey did enough to prove that he belonged at the highest level.

So maybe that is why just one year later, Dempsey's move back to Major League Soccer to play for Seattle Sounders FC came as such a shock over the weekend.

His future at Tottenham seemed to be murky after a season in which he failed to hold down a consistent place in the team under manager Andre Villas-Boas.

The 30-year-old managed to score seven goals with four assists in 29 league games for Spurs, but the team appears to be heading in another direction this summer with the arrivals of Brazilian midfielder Paulinho and Valencia forward Roberto Soldado.

Based on his production at Fulham, Dempsey would certainly have had other chances to remain in the Premier League, although maybe not with a Champions League contender.

But instead he chose to return to MLS - where he began his career with the New England Revolution in 2004 - to play for the Sounders, much to the surprise of the soccer world.

Since its inception in 1996, MLS has been a place for young talent to develop, offering a chance for players to make a name for themselves before shipping off to bigger leagues if they have what it takes.

Lately, the league has also been a landing place for European stars like Thierry Henry and David Beckham who are in the twilight of their career and looking to play out the final stretch in comfort, sort of like the elderly flocking to Florida or Arizona.

But Dempsey doesn't fall into either category, rather he is a top international player for the U.S. in his prime.

The World Cup is less than one year away and it would seem that the best way to prepare for the tournament would be to face the best opposition on a consistent basis.

Dempsey might not have received regular playing time at Tottenham this upcoming season, but he could have found a home elsewhere in the Premier League to keep his skills sharp.

Instead, he will return to a league that is viewed mostly as a stepping stone to Europe, where he spent the past six years.

The Texas native is certainly entitled to play where he wants, yet it seems a curious move for someone who appeared so focused on playing in the Champions League just one year ago.

Dempsey's move to Seattle will give him a chance to play regularly in front of a passionate fan base in his native country while being well compensated for his services.

He will reportedly make upwards of $4 million a season for the next four years, with some reports suggesting that figure is closer to $8 million.

Maybe Dempsey feels as though he has already proven himself in England having scored 60 times in five-plus seasons at Fulham with another seven goals at Tottenham last term.

The move to Seattle will give him the chance to put down roots, offering comfort for his family and plenty of financial security.

Those things are important to any man, so from that standpoint the move makes sense.

However, you have to wonder what the competitor in Dempsey is feeling right now, knowing he still has the goods to play at the highest level.

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