MLS Soccer

Sounders look to jump-start season vs. Montreal Impact

U.S. forward Jordan Morris (9) battles Colombia defender Yerry Mina (3) during the first half of an Olympic qualifying soccer match this past Tuesday in Frisco, Texas. The United States U-23 national team lost and was eliminated from qualifying for a spot in the Rio Olympics this summer.
U.S. forward Jordan Morris (9) battles Colombia defender Yerry Mina (3) during the first half of an Olympic qualifying soccer match this past Tuesday in Frisco, Texas. The United States U-23 national team lost and was eliminated from qualifying for a spot in the Rio Olympics this summer. The Associated Press

Sigi Schmid will have most of his first-team roster available Saturday when his Seattle Sounders again aim for their first points of the season.

But just because the coach has access to those familiar players doesn’t mean he’ll roll out a familiar lineup.

Schmid is presiding over the only 0-3 team in Major League Soccer, and he acknowledged this week that the gears in his brain have been churning out some new ideas.

“You always look at tweaking your team,” he said. “When you are without a win at this stage, (you think) ‘how can I maybe jump-start this?’ 

Veteran forward Nelson Valdez tipped that there could be changes up top, where he, Clint Dempsey and rookie Jordan Morris are still looking for their first goal. And there would be little shock in that. This is the first season that the club has gone with a 4-3-3 as its primary look, so no roles are written in stone. And that’s especially true with an offense that has produced a league-low two goals this season — those coming from midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Andreas Ivanschitz.

However, while Valdez implied a tweaking of responsibilities among the regulars, Schmid has hinted it could go further to a change in personnel. He noted Thursday that Morris was mentally down after his United States U-23 national team was eliminated from qualifying for a spot in this summer’s Olympics. And he repeated that Friday, this time in a way that could imply Morris might benefit from time off.

“He’s 100 percent healthy and 100 percent fit — those aren’t the issues,” Schmid said. “Anytime you go to your national team … there’s a little bit of a letdown. And certainly they were involved in trying to achieve a pretty lofty goal, and anytime you don’t achieve that lofty goal it takes a few days to psychologically get yourself back and make yourself strong.”

It also could be relevant that Schmid has a new option at forward: Herculez Gomez. Schmid said the 33-year-old is ready to play, although not yet ready for a full 90 minutes.

Whatever the Sounders do, they’ll have to try it against another strong opponent. Montreal is tied atop the Eastern Conference standings, building off a 2015 season in which they finished third in the East before being eliminated from the playoffs by eventual conference champion Columbus.

Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei had a quick response when asked about the Impact.

“Piatti,” he said, referring to midfielder Ignacio Piatti of Argentina. “… He’s a very skillful player, one of the best in the league hands down. So we have to limit his involvement in the game. Frustrate him. Make him seek the ball further back down at their own end, and just not give him too much time. I think it’s just going to be one of our guys — probably midfield guys — who’s going to have to take that responsibility.”

Piatti has three goals and two assists in three games this season. But teams concentrating too heavily on him can be burned by forward Dominic Oduro, who has two goals and an assist over three games. Schmid also believes the Impact helped itself with the addition of midfielder Harry Shipp, who has two assists.

Seattle’s defense could get a boost from centerback Brad Evans’ expected return after missing two games with a shoulder injury. Left back Joevin Jones was kicked in the knee during Trinidad and Tobago’s national-team match Tuesday, but Schmid indicated he is physically cleared.

“I’m very confident that we’ll head in the right direction,” Schmid said. “But the important thing is we can’t be 3-3 until we’re 1-3, so we have to take it one step at a time.”

Sounders gameday

SEATTLE SOUNDERS (0-3-0; 0 POINTS) VS. MONTREAL IMPACT (2-1-0; 6 POINTS)

7 p.m., CenturyLink Field

TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 97.3-FM.

Head to head: Montreal leads, 3-1, including a 1-0 victory in their only previous visit to CenturyLink Field. This is the only meeting this season.

Notes: Seattle remains the only MLS team still looking for its first point of the season. Montreal is tied atop the Eastern Conference. … The Sounders are 0-2 at home. Montreal is 1-1 on the road. … Several Sounders played with their national teams on Tuesday, but coach Sigi Schmid said all should be available. Centerback Brad Evans is expected back from a shoulder injury. Newly signed forward Herculez Gomez could make his Sounders FC debut. … Argentine midfielder Ignacio Piatti leads the Impact with three goals and two assists. However, Montreal will be without star striker Didier Drogba, who is skipping this match because of CenturyLink’s artificial surface. Last season Drogba led MLS with an average of 1.17 goals per 90 minutes played. Laurent Ciman, 2015 MLS defender of the year, suffered an ankle injury in training last week and is questionable. … Montreal’s next win will be its 50th since joining MLS in 2012. … The Sounders suggest allowing extra time for those getting to the match, citing road work in the area.

Quote: “They’re very patient. They like to hold onto the ball. They’ve got obviously a couple of very good players in Piatti and Ciman was defender of the year last year. (Midfielder Harry) Shipp I think has been a good addition to the team. He fits in with what they’re trying to do. (Dominic) Oduro still gives them that speed element in front.” — Schmid on the Impact.

Next: 1 p.m. April 10, at Houston Dynamo.

druiz@thenewstribune.com

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