Over the last few days, the Sounders FC has been preparing for a treacherous portion of their schedule, taking a lighter load in training as they prepare for their voyage.
Beginning on Saturday, the Sounders FC will play five matches in a 15-day stretch, putting 15 points on the line in a stretch nearly half as long as their first five matches of the MLS season. Since opening on March 17, the Sounders went 3-1-1 in their first five matches, finishing up with a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids 29 days later on April 14.
Now with the games coming in such rapid succession, the approach changes as the Sounders embark on a stretch that will see them face Chicago on the road, the LA Galaxy and Philadelphia Union at home, then Dallas on the road before finishing with Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field on May 12.
“The mindset going into the Colorado game was to put everything into that game because then we had time to rest,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “The mindset changes a little bit. Our mindset must be just one day at a time. If you start thinking ahead, then you get nipped in the bud a little bit.”
Part of that alteration will come in the lineup itself. The Sounders have already used 19 different starters through their first five matches and will likely continue to explore that depth in a busy month of the schedule. The Sounders will play eight MLS matches by May 26, when they will get their next reprieve on the schedule with a three-week break in the MLS calendar.
With the returns of Mauro Rosales and Adam Johansson, it will give the Sounders a boost at the front end of their schedule, while the inclusion of players like Alex Caskey, Servando Carrasco, Zach Scott, Christian Sivebæk, Marc Burch and David Estrada have given Schmid the versatility to use several different roster variations.
“We probably have to have a little bit of rotation involved for our team, especially with Johansson and Rosales coming back from injuries because they aren’t going to be able to play a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday type of sequence of games. Same thing probably with Eddie Johnson,” Schmid said. “We have to look at our players and see what makes sense in terms of a rotation, but there will probably be some sort of rotation.”
The Sounders are no strangers to schedule congestion. In 2011, they consecutive weeks with consecutive matches on four different occasions. In the first, they played four matches in 11 days from June 18-June 28, winning all four contests.
Next came a stretch of four matches in 12 days from July 26-August 6 that included two matches in the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round against San Francisco of Panama. The Sounders split at 2-2-0 in that stretch.
Next was a marathon stretch of six games in 18 days from August 13-August 30 and the Sounders again went unbeaten at 5-0-1, including a historic win over Monterrey in Mexico and another over FC Dallas in the Open Cup semifinal.
Finally, Seattle played nine matches in 29 days from September 10-October 8. That stretch included trips to three different countries in the Champions League and MLS play and the US Open Cup final. But the Sounders persevered for a 5-3-1 record, walking away with a berth in the Champions League quarterfinals and their third straight US Open Cup trophy.
They hope to be able to match that success in 2012 and the 15-day journey will be their first such test.
Kickoff is slated for 5:30 pm Pacific from Bridgeville, Illinois, with television coverage on KONG 6/16 and the live radio broadcast on 97.3 KIRO FM.