Busy period ahead means Sounders to utilize squad depth

With players out of the lineup for different reasons and three matches in just over a week, the Sounders will have to do some shuffling of the lineup.

Sounders FC @ Colorado Rapids
October 5, 2013, 7 pm PT; Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
TV/Radio: NBC Sports; 97.3 FM; La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish) 

As the postseason draws nearer and competition is heating up around Major League Soccer, players for Sounders FC are also finding intense competitions for playing time. With players returning from injuries and just five matches remaining on the schedule, players are fighting to get into the starting 11 as Head Coach Sigi Schmid still strives to put together the ideal lineup in the final month of the season.

An already deep roster was made deeper with the possible return of Clint Dempsey from a hamstring injury, adding to that competitive nature in Sounders training.

“You need people looking over their shoulders to make sure that they’re always stepping up their game and bringing their best,” Dempsey said. “It’s important to have depth. It’s important to have competition. And it’s good that we have that here.”

Dempsey has played five games with Sounders FC since signing on August 3, also appearing in two matches for the U.S. National Team in World Cup qualifying, helping them to get through to the World Cup with a 2-0 win over Mexico on September 10. After returning to Sounders FC, Dempsey came off the bench in a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake, but strained his hamstring in training the following week while preparing to face the LA Galaxy.

He returned to the practice field late last week, but was not ready to see action in Seattle’s 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls. He continued to train with the team on Tuesday and is working toward a return in Saturday’s match against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

“I just have to keep working hard and make sure that I’m looking after my body. I think I was trying to push through some stuff and ultimately I think it caused me to take a step backwards,” Dempsey said. “I’m just going to work in the gym and come back stronger and make sure that when I am coming back I’m going to be 100-percent and I’m going to hit the ground running.”

Dempsey will be evaluated on Thursday after training to determine his availability for the match on Saturday as the team works to find cohesion with its vast talent.

“There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle,” said Dempsey. “It’s about getting us on the field and seeing how we mesh together.”

On Tuesday, Leo Gonzalez was back in training after sitting out last week’s match against New York with tightness in his groin. However, Obafemi Martins and Djimi Traore were both out, though Schmid indicated that he anticipated having Martins available on Saturday. If Traore is unable to start, Schmid has plenty of options at center back, as has been proven in recent weeks when he has used three different center back pairings on Seattle’s current seven-match unbeaten streak, utilizing Traore, Zach Scott and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.

“Zach’s played very well this season. I think it’s probably the best season he’s had,” Schmid said, also including Patrick Ianni as a candidate to start. “I think we’ve got four good center backs.”

Seattle will need to utilize its depth with its upcoming schedule.

After Saturday’s match against Colorado, Sounders FC will run the Cascadia gauntlet, hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on October 9, then facing the Portland Timbers in the final match in the Cascadia Cup on October 13 at JELD-WEN Field. In the latter two matches, Seattle could be playing without Dempsey, Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans, as Jurgen Klinsmann will announce his squad for the World Cup qualifying matches on Thursday. Any players called in would join the U.S. team on Sunday, returning following an October 15 match against Panama.

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