Dempsey on performing big in rivalry games as he prepares for Sounders’ biggest

Clint Dempsey has eight goals for the Sounders in rivalry games against the Portland Timbers and agrees he does tend to elevate his play when opponents and stakes are higher

Sounders star forward Clint Dempsey remembers his first big rivalry games from when he was just 9 years old.

Dempsey was a fifth grader playing for the Texas Longhorns youth soccer club in Dallas, part of a three-team Classic League that included the equally powerful Dallas Texans squad. The two sides inevitably battled for the championship every year, so any regular season or tournament games between them took on added importance in the feeling-out process.

“It was never life and death in terms of people trying to kill each other, but it was just that you knew they would be good, competitive games,’’ said Dempsey, who wound up switching to the Texans as a high school freshman and going equally hard after the Longhorns side. “They were the teams you usually faced in the finals of tournaments and those were the teams you needed to beat to get the points to be top of the league. So, they were very important games that kind of gave you a lift during the year.’’

Just like this Saturday, when his Sounders square off for the first time this season against the arch-rival Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field. To say Dempsey gets a “lift’’ from these games would be an understatement: having scored eight goals against the Timbers, three of them game-winners and six coming in the final 30 minutes.

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“It’s an important game for us and our fans, so you want to perform well,’’ Dempsey said. “It’s bragging rights. You look to try to get a good result. Whether it’s you scoring or somebody else. It’s all about trying to win and have those bragging rights.’’

The mark of a top player in any sport is being able to produce at their highest level in the biggest games. And Dempsey…

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