Clint Dempsey returns to training for Sounders preseason

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Sidelined since August with an irregular heartbeat, the U.S. star was back on the training field Tuesday as the Seattle Sounders kicked off preseason.

Clint Dempsey returned to full Seattle Sounders training for the start of preseason Tuesday, having been sidelined since August because of an irregular heartbeat.

The U.S. national team forward sat out the regular season home stretch and playoffs while undergoing treatment last fall, with his final match coming Aug. 21. He was seen taking part in light exercises before the Sounders' MLS Cup triumph in Toronto last month but was not deemed ready to participate in the U.S. national team's January camp.

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Now medically cleared to practice, Dempsey trained without restrictions Tuesday in Tukwila, Washington.

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"We've been pleased with his progress," Seattle general manager Garth Lagerwey said on the Sounders' website. "His attitude has been awesome, he's worked really hard. He's now progressed to a point where he’s able to rejoin the team on a regular basis. We still have some steps to get through. We're excited about what the future may hold."

The Sounders will travel to Tucson, Arizona, next week for preseason camp before participating in the Carolina Challenge Cup from Feb. 18-25 in Charleston, South Carolina. Lagerwey said Dempsey could play in that preseason tournament, which will see the Sounders face the second-tier Charleston Battery, Atlanta United and the Columbus Crew.

U.S. coach Bruce Arena said earlier this month he is optimistic Dempsey will be available for World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama in late March.