MLS Soccer

Rusty but rested, Sounders return to work

After three days off, the Seattle Sounders returned to training on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

And if the session wasn’t a thing of beauty, coach Sigi Schmid found that a small price to pay for what will be their final prolonged break of the long season.

“The first day back is always a little sluggish at times, but that’s just normal,” he said. “Guys haven’t done anything. A couple of guys got away for two, three days. A couple of guys just relaxed at home. Usually that first day back is not the sharpest one. (Monday) will be better.”

The Sounders’ previous action had come Wednesday in a 4-2 win at Chivas USA. The club traveled back from Southern California on Thursday and then had most of the weekend off before returning for the home stretch of the MLS season, which begins Friday when Real Salt Lake visits CenturyLink Field. Schmid also granted additional time off to World Cup participants Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin.

“We’ve got a heavy stretch coming up, so from here on in there’s really no breaks,” Schmid said. “There might be a day or two here or there, but it allows us to sit back, take a deep breath, watch everybody play this weekend.”

The new week begins with Seattle atop Major League Soccer, two points ahead of Los Angeles over the same number of games. Upcoming opponent Salt Lake is five points behind, and the Sounders have a game in hand. Seattle is four points up on Eastern Conference leader D.C. United, and also with a game in hand.

After facing RSL, the Sounders head out on a three-game trip starting Sept. 16 at Philadelphia for the U.S. Open Cup final. After that, they stay on the road for league games Sept. 20 at New York and Sept. 24 at Dallas. They close the month Sept. 27 at home, once again facing Chivas USA.

“I was really pleased with what we did being up 4-0 (at Chivas) at halftime and probably had chances to be up by six or seven,” Schmid said. “In the second half, I think we took the foot off the gas, and we weren’t happy with the goals we took against — made the game maybe a little harder than it needed to be in the second half. But the guys rose to the challenge.”

At Chivas, the Sounders got two goals each from Obafemi Martins and Andy Rose.

Rose started in central midfield, while veteran Gonzalo Pineda got time off. Another midfield change had Lamar Neagle filling the outside position usually handled by Marco Pappa, who will remain away this week with the Guatemala national team.

In his health updates, Schmid said “everybody is coming along.” Dylan Remick (adductor) and Damion Lowe (hip) were in full training Sunday, while Djimi Traore (quadriceps), Tristan Bowen (quadriceps) and Marcus Hahnemann (hamstring) were limited. Schmid also volunteered an improvement in play from Micheal Azira.

The increased options may come in handy over the final eight games of the regular season.

“You’ve got to just feel for it,” Schmid said. “It’s easy to sit here right now and say, ‘This is what my lineup will be against Dallas after we play these next three games; this is what my lineup would look like when we come back home against Chivas.’ But when you actually get into the stretch, you see how people react. … You’re always making adjustments. The lineups you put down, you better put them down in pencil because there’s a lot of erasure for changes that you make.”