Liga MX

Back from irregular heartbeat, Dempsey hopes for 4th Cup

PANAMA CITY (AP) Clint Dempsey's big, owlish eyes brightened and he smiled widely. Seven months after he was sidelined by an irregular heartbeat, he not only returned to the U.S. national team at age 34 but helped the Americans to a critical victory in World Cup qualifying with just the second hat trick of his international career.

"There's moments where you're sitting at home and you're praying and hoping things will work out," he said brightly in his Texan twang. "So I'm just blessed that I can keep going. It's what I love to do, and hopefully there's some more time left."

His career came to a sudden stop last Aug. 26 when Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders announced their star forward was being evaluated for an irregular heartbeat. After two unspecified procedures, Dempsey returned for Seattle's opener on March 4, keyed Friday night's 6-0 rout of Honduras and hopes to play a big role in Tuesday night's qualifier against Panama.