Clint Dempsey cleared to practice with Seattle Sounders after heart issue

Clint Dempsey participated in Seattle Sounders team drills on Tuesday morning after being medically cleared to return to training.

Dempsey, 33, missed the end of the 2016 Major League Soccer season -- including the Sounders' run to the the MLS Cup title -- after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat last August.

But Dempsey was back on the field with his team on Tuesday as the Sounders began their preseason training ahead of the 2017 season.

"Clint has continued to make progress," Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey told reporters. "We've been pleased with his progress. His attitude has been awesome, he's worked really hard.

"We asked him to do a period of work individually in the offseason and he's progressed to a point where he's able to rejoin the team on a regular basis."

The U.S. international has still not been cleared to play, but Lagerway said he could participate in some of the Sounders' preseason matches before the club begins the regular season on March 4 against the Houston Dynamo.

"He is healthy enough to train," Lagerwey said. "That has been determined. But we've still got some mileposts we've got to hit along the way as we continue to progress him.

"I don't want to set any expectations because we'll either hit them or we won't. There is no timetable. We're not prepared to put any more structure on it than that.

"He's a veteran player who hasn't played a competitive match in six months. So there are real fitness concerns around him getting back into form and sharpness and doing so in a healthy manner."

In December of 2016, new U.S. coach Bruce Arena said he hoped to have Dempsey in the national team's January camp. While that did not happen, Dempsey's return to training with the Sounders leaves the door open to his availability for a pair of crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama at the end of March.