This early bye week in the MLS season comes at a fortunate time for Seattle Sounders FC.
For one thing, it gives the first team an extra week to get healthy before returning to league play March 28 at FC Dallas.
For another, it clears the decks for the run-up to the inaugural game of the Sounders 2 USL team, which will debut at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when defending champion Sacramento Republic FC visits Starfire Sports Stadium.
Not only the roster, but the personnel rules were still falling into place in the days leading to the opener.
“We’re going to wind up right around 10 guys signed for S2, with the way things look right now,” Sounders FC general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “You can do the math: You need 18 guys to fill out a soccer team, so we’ll have a couple of guys coming up from the academy and a whole bunch coming down from the first team. And you’ll see those announcements likely this week.”
In short, Lagerwey said players from the Sounders first team can easily be lent down to S2, while there are more complications in the process of promoting an S2 player to the MLS roster.
That adds relevance to the announced signings Tuesday of two draft picks: right back Oniel Fisher and goalkeeper Charlie Lyon. Both were signed to the Sounders first team, but both are expected to wear the S2 crest Saturday.
Fisher was a second-round pick from New Mexico, while Lyon was a fourth-round selection from Marquette.
“Two nice kids, and hopefully they have a long future with us,” Lagerwey said. “But these are guys who are projects for the future. That’s why we drafted them … and hopefully these are guys who will work out over time.”
Especially for Fisher, because there is a chance his time will come on an accelerated schedule.
First-team starting right back Tyrone Mears suffered a hamstring tear in the Sounders’ 3-2 loss to San Jose on Saturday. Tests since then indicate the injury isn’t expected to be a long-term thing. But while the club hopes Mears could be available for the next MLS match at Dallas, that isn’t certain.
“We have options there,” first team coach Sigi Schmid said. “(Center back Brad Evans) can always slide back out to right back. We’ve got Oniel Fisher, who we’ve got on board now, and he’s an option for us. Jimmy Ockford played some right back for us in preseason. Zach Scott can always play there in a pinch as well.”
Some of those options could get a test run Tuesday when Club Tijuana will meet the Sounders in a friendly at CenturyLink Field.
“We’ll obviously try some stuff there, and we’ll use that as a little bit of a dry run to see what works and what doesn’t and what we’re comfortable with,” Lagerwey said.
The Sounders also hope defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (groin) could return to action in that friendly and then be ready for his 2015 MLS debut the following weekend at Dallas.
Schmid and Lagerwey each voiced support and continued patience as Evans tries to convert to center back. Evans was prominently involved in each of San Jose’s three goals on Saturday, but Schmid noted Tuesday that other Sounders shared responsibility. He also reminded everyone that the patience the club showed last season with goalkeeper Stefan Frei was rewarded, and he indicated he hopes that result can be duplicated with Evans. … Evans was excused from training Tuesday following the death of his grandmother. He is expected back Wednesday. … Veteran forward Kenny Cooper also remains away with what the club is calling an excused absence. Schmid and Lagerwey each indicated that Cooper’s status could be clarified this week.