Sounders FC @ Real Salt Lake
June 22, 2013, 6:30 pm PT; Rio Tinto Stadium; Sandy, Utah
TV/Radio: KONG 6/16; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; KOMO2 (Spanish); La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)
Sounders FC is a team on a role with the best record in MLS over the last nine matches at 6-1-2. On Thursday, they got some reinforcements to their lineup when Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans and Mario Martinez all returned to the team’s training grounds at Starfire to get ready for Seattle’s next match against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
“It’s good to be back here with the boys. This is my home and this is my family,” said Johnson, who briefly saw his teammates when some members of the US National Team were in attendance for Seattle’s 3-2 win over Vancouver on June 8. “Seeing the guys get a good win and seeing them play amazing football, it’s something that you’re anxious to get back to and be a part of.”
Johnson and Evans both played key roles in the US National Team’s success in earning three victories over Jamaica, Panama and Honduras. Evans started at right back in all three matches for a defense that allowed just one goal and he also added the game-winning goal in Jamaica to set the tone for the three-game swing. Johnson, meanwhile, filled in as a winger on both sides of the midfield in starts against Panama and Honduras.
Those are different roles than fans are accustomed to seeing them play in the Rave Green and the team has had success in their absence. Just how they fit into Sigi Schmid’s scheme for Saturday is yet to be seen.
“I think it’s still up in the air. Wherever I fill in, I fill in,” Evans said. “There are aspects that I can take away that I learned playing rightback that I can apply playing centermid, rightmid, leftmid, wherever it is.”
Johnson is also willing to remain malleable to help the team win against RSL, especially considering the team’s recent victories over Chivas USA and the Whitecaps and the success of forwards Lamar Neagle and Obafemi Martins, who have combined for seven goals and four assists in the last five matches.
“The team’s been playing well and it’s all about being on the right page. Our team has formed a lot of chemistry and has been doing well since we’ve been away,” Johnson said. “Whatever my role is, I’m going to give my best. If that’s coming off the bench, I’ll come off the bench because our two strikers are hot right now – they’re scoring goals and you don’t want to break that rhythm.”
For all the successes of the US National Team, Honduras struggled in their three matches after bolting to a good start in the Hexagonal Round. After going 1-1-1 through the first three matches that included a 2-1 win over the US and a 2-2 draw with Mexico, Honduras went just 1-2-0 against Costa Rica, Jamaica and the US this month. After missing the first match, a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, Martinez started and played 75 minutes against Jamaica and 69 minutes against the US.
Honduras now sits fourth in the CONCACAF standings, which would put them in a playoff with New Zealand for a chance to go to the World Cup.
“It wasn’t that good. It was not what we were expecting,” said Martinez. “We’re aware that we have a long road to go, but I was happy to be with the national team.”
The match between the US and Honduras became a point of pride for the Sounders, as all three players started in the match. With each playing a prominent role for their team, it was a step forward for a Seattle team that had not featured a regular player seeing so much time in World Cup preparations.
“We have big ambitions as an organization. We want to try and get the best players here and compete in a difficult league for the MLS Cup,” Johnson said. “Having three guys out on the field says a lot about this club and the direction that we’re trying to go.”
The pro-US crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium wasn’t shy in showing their support for Evans and Johnson. However, neither is expecting the same reception when they take the field for Seattle on Saturday.
“The crowd was tremendous for the game on Tuesday night,” Evans said. “I expect another sellout, but I’m sure they’ll be screaming at me instead of for me.”