Sounders' ever-changing lineups pose challenge for club

Staff writerJuly 18, 2013 

Sounders

The Sounders’ Osvaldo Alonso, left, will play Saturday after a red card that would have kept him out of the match was rescinded.

TONY OVERMAN — Staff photographer file, 2012

Anyone wanting to know about the first half of Seattle Sounders FC’s season need only look at what unfolded Wednesday.

In the morning, the Sounders were informed that Major League Soccer rescinded a red card that would have kept midfielder Osvaldo Alonso out of Saturday’s home match against Colorado.

A few hours later, the Sounders learned that forward Eddie Johnson would miss the match — and perhaps the one after that — because he was being called up to the U.S. national team.

A similar stagger of a step or two forward followed by a step or two back has been the defining characteristic of this season. Seventeen games into a 34-game regular season, the Sounders are 7-7-3 — and they have gotten there while using

17 different starting lineups.

“I feel sad for the fans because we really haven’t been able to put the group together for a sustained period of time to see how they can respond and how they can jell together,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “But the thing I’ll promise the fans is we’re going to come out and we’re going to roll up our sleeves and we’re going to fight and battle on Saturday afternoon because they deserve it and because our team deserves it.

“It’s the most difficult situation we’ve been in injury-wise, and with people coming in and out with call-ups … we’ve got to find a way to still be successful.”

The Sounders probably will have to be more successful in the second half of the season than they were in the first. A .500 record likely would keep them out of the playoffs for the first time in their five Major League Soccer seasons.

Seattle is tied for seventh place in the Western Conference — two spots short of playoff qualification. The Sounders have at least two games in hand on every other team in the West, but their average of 1.41 points per game ranks seventh in the conference and falls short of the 1.5-ppg mark that Schmid traditionally considers the safe zone.

Individual club leaders at the midpoint are Obafemi Martins with six goals; Johnson with 28 shots and 15 shots on goal; Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle and Mauro Rosales with three assists each; and Michael Gspurning with a 1.15 goals against average.

Gspurning also leads the club with 1,485 minutes played, while Djimi Traore leads among field players with 1,403 minutes.

Johnson and Gspurning are unavailable Saturday, while Martins, Evans and Traore are questionable.

“We know a lot of players are injured,” Martins said Thursday. “We don’t have any choice but to continue to train and focus on the game. ... We don’t really have to get frustrated. We need a lot of players who haven’t really played in a lot of games to help us now, and we’ve got to help them, too.”

Martins has been training through a calf injury, and he seems likely to play Saturday. Evans (ribs) seems less certain. Designated player Shalrie Joseph (calf) and reserve goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann (hamstring) are out this week and perhaps longer.

If the U.S. reaches the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, Johnson won’t play for the Sounders until August.

“I would really like to see what this team looks like when we can get our best players on the field for three, four games in a row. ... It’s tough to measure where the team is because of all the changes,” Schmid said.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808
don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com
blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer
@donruiztnt

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