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USMNT: Arena hopeful Dempsey ready for World Cup qualifiers

United States v Argentina: Semifinal - Copa America Centenario

HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 21: Nicolas Otamendi #17 of Argentina and Clint Dempsey #8 of United States battle for the ball in the second half during a 2016 Copa America Centenario Semifinal match at NRG Stadium on June 21, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

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USMNT coach Bruce Arena plans to call up Clint Dempsey, saying he’s “hopeful” the Seattle Sounders striker will be prepared to play in March’s World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Honduras.

Dempsey has been out of action since August, having undergone a pair of operations to correct heart problems.

[ PL: Top Six face December challenges ]’s Seth Vertelney has a quote from Arena:

“I spoke to Clint yesterday, he is making good progress,” Arena said. “Obviously his health is a priority. And we are hoping we can bring him into camp in January, just casually get back into the swing of things. Perhaps not even considering him playing, and then have him ready to go as Seattle starts their preseason (in February).”

The 33-year-old was part of the locker room celebrations on Saturday in Toronto following the Sounders’ triumph over TFC in penalty kicks.

Dempsey has scored 52 goals in 130 caps, with three of those goals coming in a star turn for the U.S. at the Copa America Centenario.

Follow @NicholasMendola