Clint Dempsey is tired.
Can you blame him? For the past 18 months, he's played soccer almost non-stop.
When most of Major League Soccer put up their feet and enjoyed the 2014 World Cup from the couch, Dempsey was hard at work for the U.S. Men's National Team, which shook off its underdog status and advanced to the knockout stage of the tournament.
Afterwards, Dempsey resumed the MLS season -- going up against players with well-rested legs. And that burden he carried with his body wasn't limited to just the extra World Cup play: Dempsey had also been playing important World Cup qualifying matches and training with the national team in earnest for a full year before that.
Now, he's facing just a few more games before a much-deserved offseason -- his first true break in nearly two years.
But there's a lot at stake before Dempsey reaches the finish line. The Seattle Sounders have advanced to the Western Conference Championship against the Los Angeles Galaxy, the first game of which will will be played this Sunday.
Dempsey's Sounders face a tall task in that matchup. Seattle and Los Angeles enter as the top two teams in Major League Soccer over the regular season. And they're offensive juggernauts: The Galaxy scored 69 regular-season goals, while the Sounders had 65. Only one other team is within 10 goals of that production.
That could turn the Western Conference Championship into a wild west shootout. Dempsey will have to match the production of Los Angeles' Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, who are firing on all cylinders right now.
Dempsey has the advantage of a long layoff between the last round and Sunday's match -- 13 days, to be exact. But given Dempsey's condition, it may not be enough. The Sounders routinely spelled him throughout the regular season post-World Cup, with Dempsey insisting that he needed time to recover.
Those brief breaks served as useful bandages, but they did little to resolve the long-term problem: Dempsey's legs have a lot of miles on them in 2014. Two weeks may provide a little spark, but he'll be far from a spring chicken.
Dempsey already lacks the foot speed to beat defenders on breakaways, so he'll have to wield creativity to produce goals against the Galaxy.
The Sounders will almost surely have to do better than their performance against FC Dallas in the previous round, where a strong defensive performance helped the team advance despite just one goal in two matches.
The good news is that Dempsey has always been a crafty creator on offense. Although Obafemi Martins leads the Sounders in both goals and assists, Dempsey created 36 more shots than Martins during the regular season.
But Dempsey only scored on less than 10 percent of those shots. Martins' scoring percentage was 22 percent.
While Dempsey might simply be more aggressive in taking shots than his teammates, such a low scoring percentage could suggest that fatigue is affecting his ability to finish.
Dempsey will hold up through the last two to four games of the MLS playoffs, but whether he can bring his peak performance is another matter.