Slowly, the Sounders are beginning to come into form.
While the team has been coming together on the field, there has also been a sense that there is much more to come with Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins returning to full strength after missing time due to injuries. For that forward combination, a bye last weekend may have been the right elixir to remedy the ailments that have kept them from being at full strength.
When the Sounders returned to training after taking the weekend off, they did so with Johnson back in full training after missing the last two matches with a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, Martins is easing back into the team, doing light work on the side while he deals with a knee issue that kept him out of a scoreless draw with New England on April 13.
“We’re starting to get guys back,” Johnson said. “I know I’ve been out of it a while and I’m feeling good and looking forward to getting back and playing some of the good soccer we’ve been playing lately.”
Johnson started off the 2013 season strong after spending most of preseason in camp with the U.S. National Team and has been a regular with the U.S. during World Cup qualifying matches. He led the Sounders with 14 goals in 2012 and had one goal in league play and another in Champions League action before being slowed by a hamstring injury against Salt Lake. Getting him back on the field gives the team a serious goal-scoring threat up front, but most importantly provides an aerial target in the box that opens up Seattle’s offense to more options.
“I thought he trained well last week. So he’s just got to continue to go on that and if there are no setbacks, he should be ready to go this weekend,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.
The weekend off did wonders for Johnson as he looks to regain the form of 2012 that helped him reclaim a spot with the U.S. National Team after two years away from international duty. On Monday after training he was eager at the prospect of getting back in with his teammates and help them through a rigorous part of the schedule that will see them play the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, then Sporting Kansas City and the San Jose Earthquakes over an eight-day stretch.
“I had an extra week to do some strengthening with my hamstring,” Johnson said. “I feel good. I feel confident. From a mental standpoint, it’s behind me and I’m OK. So I’m looking forward to getting back out there with the team.”
Johnson and Martins aren’t alone in inching their way back to the team. David Estrada has been out since the match against Real Salt Lake with an eye injury and has been more and more involved in training of late. Patrick Ianni has been out since the preseason with a fracture in his foot, but now has two Reserve League games under his belt. And while Steve Zakuani, Djimi Traore and Marc Burch have been limited in training, none have been ruled out of Saturday’s match against Philadelphia.
“It’s going to be good to get back all these healthy guys,” said midfielder Shalrie Joseph, who himself was slowed by injuries at the start of the season and has since played in the last two league matches. “The more we can practice together, the better we are going to become. Another week of training is going to be good and we look forward to the challenge against Philly.”