HOUSTON – There aren’t many teams in Major League Soccer that can go into a match without their top strike pair and replace them with a five-goal scorer and a U.S. National Team star.
That is the luxury Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid has on Saturday. Despite the absences of Eddie Johnson to suspension for yellow card accumulation and Obafemi Martins to an ankle injury, he will still be able to field a lethal forward partnership in Lamar Neagle and Clint Dempsey, who will be making his first start for Sounders FC.
“It’s still a hardship because those two guys are very important players to our team,” Schmid said. “Neagle has played up there, so he pushes up there. We’ve got Clint who can play as that second forward, so that gives us two options there that are good options for sure, but if we have to go to the bench, it’s a little thinner.”
Martins leads the team with seven goals and has added three assists while Johnson has five goals and two assists.
Dempsey made his debut last week against Toronto FC, coming into the match in the first half for Martins. Neagle has split time between forward and left wing, scoring five goals and adding three assists.
There were three other changes to the starting lineup from last week’s 2-1 win over Toronto FC, beginning with the goalkeeper position, where Michael Gspurning makes his return after missing the last four matches with a forearm injury suffered on July 13 against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Houston will start with goalkeeper Tally Hall; defenders Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor and Corey Ashe; a midfield of Boniek Garcia, Ricardo Clark, Adam Moffat and Brad Davis; and forwards Will Bruin and Giles Barnes.
Their bench is Erich Marscheider, Eric Brunner, Warren Creavalle, Andrew Driver, Alexander Lopez, Brian Ching and Cam Weaver.
The back four in front of him remains the same, with DeAndre Yedlin, Patrick Ianni, Djimi Traore and Leo Gonzalez starting, from right-to-left.
In the midfield, Osvaldo Alonso remains in the starting role as the defensive midfielder and Mauro Rosales, who has one goal and two assists in the last three matches, stays on the right side. However, Shalrie Joseph takes over the central midfield role along with Alonso and Marc Burch moves into Neagle’s role on the left side.
Joseph is making his first start since July 6 against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
On the bench, Seattle has Marcus Hahnemann, Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Dylan Remick, Brad Evans, Servando Carrasco and Eriq Zavaleta. Evans is returning from international duty after playing 83 minutes in a 4-3 friendly win for the U.S. over Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday.