MLS Soccer

Sounders moving closer to full strength

Coach Sigi Schmid may face rare but appealing decisions Saturday when he writes out his lineup for the Seattle Sounders’ home match against Toronto FC.

In Seattle’s 2-1 win over Portland on Sunday, Marco Pappa returned to the starting lineup, Osvaldo Alonso returned to game action, and Chad Barrett returned to the 18-man roster.

Schmid said that star forward Clint Dempsey was held out only after close consideration, and he implied strongly that Dempsey could return this week.

“He’s a forward and when an opportunity presents itself you’ve got to give everything you have,” Schmid said. “When you’re coming off a hamstring, that’s the situation: Are you able to sprint, or is that going to be a recurrence of your injury and now you’re back to ground zero again. My decision was let’s get him to where he feels entirely comfortable making that last-ditch effort. Hopefully that will happen (this) week.”

Dempsey was back in training Monday, and after practice Schmid again implied that this most important missing piece could be ready to slide back in.

“This could be — I don’t know yet — but this could be the first week where we really have almost all of the options to choose from,” Schmid said. “Now the hard part is deciding, OK, what’s the best way to fit all that together on the field.”

Too few options was a prime reason for the slide that sent Seattle from the top of the Western Conference to their resent precarious tie for the sixth and final playoff spot. But too many options pose their own challenges.

Dempsey’s availability to join the starting forward tandem of Obafemi Martins and Nelson Valdez mandates either benching a designated player, moving a forward into another position, or shifting from Schmid’s standard 4-4-2 formation.

That could also add to the squeeze at midfield where Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle, Erik Friberg and Pappa started Sunday. However, something there will have to give, as Alonso appears ready to return to his starting spot.

“Happy,” Alonso said of his Sunday return from a hamstring injury. “When you’ve spent time off the field you want to come back. … I feel no pain, so I have to keep going now.”

The something that gives could be Evans, who moved from central defense to defensive midfielder. That allowed him to fill in for Alonso while also creating room for newly acquired central defender Roman Torres.

Torres moved directly into the starting back line next to Chad Marshall. However, Torres will miss the Toronto game while away with the Panama national team. If he does, Zach Scott could move up, or Evans could move back.

“I have no idea,” Evans said about his next role with the team. “Strap on the (goalkeeper) gloves, hopefully.”

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer

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