Seattle Sounders FC has done its duty for its country.
During this 2013 season, the Sounders contributed three players and a combined 14 lost Major League Soccer games to the United States national team’s World Cup-qualifying effort.
That effort paid off, because the U.S. punched its ticket to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. However, part of the cost was Seattle playing eight games without Eddie Johnson, four without Brad Evans and two without newly acquired Clint Dempsey. (Rookie defender DeAndre Yedlin also missed an MLS match while with the United States’ U-20 World Cup team.)
But that’s over now. The last of those missed games – and the end of the Sounders’ international obligations for this MLS season – came Tuesday, when Team USA concluded the qualifying round with a 3-2 win at Panama. Evans played the first 55 minutes, and then rejoined the Sounders in Texas on Thursday in advance of their Saturday match at FC Dallas.
While Evans celebrated in Panama, Dempsey and Johnson were in Seattle, trying to work their way back from their respective shoulder and groin injuries. Still, they shared in the U.S. team’s accomplishment.
“I’m happy for the boys – for the U.S. team – for winning away from home, which isn’t easy to do, and winning the group,” Dempsey said. “That’s a good thing.”
It wasn’t good for the Sounders. The club’s goal now is to recover as much as it can over the final two regular-season games before the start of the MLS playoffs.
“The injuries and missing guys with national team call-ups and so forth has affected the ability to have some continuity,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We came out (Thursday) and said, ‘OK, let’s play a little bit of offense against defense.’ But we’re not quite sure who’s going to be starting on Saturday. So the group you’re working with on Thursday is maybe a different group than the group you’re going to play with on Saturday.”
While the international call-ups are behind the Sounders (15-11-6) for this season, there’s still the matter of nagging injuries.
Players such as Dempsey, Johnson and forward Obafemi Martins are questionable this weekend with injuries, and Schmid took a travel party of 20 players to Texas because he doesn’t know who will be available for his 18-man game-day roster.
Despite an ongoing three-game losing streak, Seattle remains in playoff position and within striking range of the Western Conference title and Supporters’ Shield.
“I think the last three games have been frustrating, even before Brad and I went to the national team,” Johnson said. “The one thing for us is, like we always talked about, having that same mentality we have at home, having that same approach on the road. I think we’re too good of a team with the amount of experience one through 18, home and away, to give up early goals. (Still), we have too much talent on the attacking half not to put away our chances.”
The Sounders reported Thursday that ticket sales have topped 64,000 for the regular-season finale Oct. 27 at CenturyLink versus the Los Angeles Galaxy. That figure already assures that the club will break its single-season MLS average attendance record of 43,144, set last season. … MLS has announced the dates for the 2013 playoffs. Knockout games: Oct. 30-31. Conference semifinals: first leg Nov. 2-3, second leg Nov. 6-7. Conference finals: first leg Nov. 9-10; second leg Nov. 23-24. MLS Cup: Dec. firstname.lastname@example.org