Since before this season, Seattle Sounders FC knew that one of these days it would have to play without some of its best players.
That day is here.
The Sounders will face the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday while forward Clint Dempsey, midfielder Brad Evans and defender DeAndre Yedlin are away with the U.S. national team.
“Those are guys that have played a pretty significant role on our team,” midfielder Lamar Neagle said. “What are you going to do? We have guys that are champing at the bit to get in.”
Obviously, the Sounders don’t have a spare Clint Dempsey waiting in reserve. But the club did add several accomplished veterans during the offseason with just this kind of situation in mind.
One is Kenny Cooper, who ranks fifth among active MLS players with 75 career goals, including 18-goal seasons in 2008 and 2012.
This season, Cooper is fourth on the club with three goals despite playing only 391 minutes with five starts.
“My mentality I think has always been the same for every team I’ve been on, whether I’ve started a lot of games or at times come off the bench: that’s always to give my best,” Cooper said. “Obviously, it’s a challenge when you’re not playing games. You’re hungry to get out there and help the team and contribute.”
Cooper is expected to be one of at least three reserves stepping up into starting roles. However, coach Sigi Schmid said those won’t be the only changes. Obafemi Martins and other holdover starters also have to adjust to the demands of life without Dempsey and the others.
“Not only Oba, but also Marco Pappa needs to step up and make plays,” Schmid said. “Lamar Neagle, as well. Kenny Cooper. Chad Barrett. Different people. But I’m confident that we’ll be able to do that.”
With Dempsey around, Martins has been more of a distributor and leads MLS with six assists. But in Dempsey’s absence, he acknowledges he might need to return to his more familiar role as the guy who puts the ball into the net.
“We’re going to miss them: DeAndre and Evans and Clint,” Martins said. “But still, we have to keep going. … I’m a striker. I love to score goals and everything. … I’m doing well right now; but still I have to do better, trying to score more goals.”
San Jose has lost two players to U.S. national team duty: goals-leader Chris Wondolowski and defender Clarence Goodson
But it doesn’t end there for the Quakes. They are also without defender Victor Bernardez and midfielder Shea Salinas, who were slapped with one-game suspensions. Bernardez was fined and suspended an undisclosed amount for “misconduct toward FC Dallas forward David Texeira” in San Jose’s last game, according to MLS, and he will serve the suspension this weekend before leaving for the Honduras national team. Salinas was suspended one game for a red card.
Also, San Jose forwards Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon are expected to be out with injuries.
For all the problems that puts on the visitors, Schmid said it adds a wild-card element for his club, as well.
“(It is) a little tougher to prepare because you don’t know how their lineup is going to be pieced together,” he said. “So you’re guessing a little bit more, and you’ll find out in the game.”
U.S. Soccer announced that Sounders FC will begin U.S. Open Cup play in the tournament’s fourth round (June 10-18) either visiting LA Galaxy II of USL-Pro or playing host to PSA Elite of USASA at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila. … Former Sounders announcer Arlo White will call the first half of the Seattle-San Jose match on the KIRO radio broadcast and the second half on the Channel 13 telecast. “Just thoroughly looking forward to it,” he said at Sounders’ training Friday. “I just feel so strongly, so fondly about my time here.”