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'Nations league' impact upon U.S., Mexico

CONCACAF
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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Clint Dempsey: 'I did everything I could to keep playing' after heartbeat issue

Clint Dempsey shares his experience with an irregular heartbeat and his recovery in time for the USMNT's next qualifiers.

Clint Dempsey says he "did everything I could to keep playing" after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat.

The ailment ended the forward's season in August of last year, and after recently returning with the Seattle Sounders, Dempsey will suit up with the U.S. national team on Friday for the first time since the Copa America last June.

In an interview with ESPN's Julie Stewart-Binks, Dempsey admitted there were times he thought his career might be over, but he fought to continue and hopes to finish on his own terms.

"There's always that possibility, you don't really know the full extent until you hear from the doctors," he said of the chances of being forced into retirement. "They said there's a way you can get back to playing, and I did everything I could to keep playing without putting myself at too much risk."

Dempsey said he first felt palpitations last February before the Major League Soccer season started, and though he told the Sounders then, they did not recur in the summer.

"It was during exercising, pretty much," he said. "When you're training, you could feel, like, palpitations. It definitely didn't feel normal; tried to figure out ways to see what it was exactly and how serious it was and whether or not I could keep playing.

"I did everything I could to keep playing because that's what I love and as long as it's not life threatening, I'd like to play a few more years."

Herculez Gomez says Clint Dempsey's return is a testament to him as a person, but warns the U.S. must be careful with him.

After following the advice of medical teams, Dempsey has played all 90 minutes in three games for Seattle this month and has been called into the U.S. squad by coach Bruce Arena to face Honduras on Friday's World Cup qualifier. 

Dempsey said he's optimistic the worst is behind him, but he knows an irregular heartbeat is something that can't be healed like a common muscle injury.

"You just take it one day at a time," he said. "You don't want to get too far ahead of yourself, you just want to take care of your body and make sure you're doing the right things to give yourself a chance to get through the season.

"It's not something that you can say, 'Oh I'm never gonna have any issues because it's a complicated thing.' I think it's always going to be in the back of your mind a little bit, but as you get through each week you get a little more confident that things are fixed and you're gonna be strong enough to see the season out and maybe another one."

Still, Dempsey, who turned 34 this month, said he was glad the ailment didn't crop up when he was younger.

"I'm happy that it happened later in my career than earlier because I think it would have been more difficult to handle with your career in front of you," he said.

"I'm now toward the tail end and have been blessed to have a great career so it's not as stressful. But still, you want to go out on your feet and not limp off, so I'm happy to be on my feet and playing."

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