When the 2013 MLS schedule came out, the club was aware that players may miss games to international duty, but nobody on the roster had been so entrenched in their national team that it would become an issue.
As the season has progressed, though, Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson have become U.S. National Team regulars and with the addition of Clint Dempsey, there are three players that are expected to get called in for all of the important matches for Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad. This week, Johnson and Evans got the call for World Cup qualifying matches against Jamaica and Panama and Dempsey was left behind as he continues to deal with a hamstring strain that has kept him out of the last three matches.
With other players also recovering from injuries and a busy week as Seattle continues a stretch of three matches in nine days, Head Coach Sigi Schmid is left to construct his lineup for the two remaining matches against Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Portland Timbers without at least two key components. Captain Mauro Rosales isn’t concerned, though, as a deep Sounders side has dealt with absences for injury, suspension and international duty all season.
“They are important for our team, but we are prepared. Every player has to step up for the game and they are ready,” Rosales said. “Everyone wants to be part of the success of the team.”
Dempsey’s exclusion from the U.S. roster means he will have more time to train with Sounders FC and further integrate himself into the squad in a crucial time in the season. He has played in five matches, starting in three, but a hamstring strain left him on the shelf for the last three outings. Schmid said on Monday that his availability against Vancouver and Portland will be determined on a game-by-game basis.
“Clint’s still recovering from his injury and Jurgen understood that,” Schmid said. “It’s a good chance for him, fitness-wise, to make some things up and make sure that his hamstring gets 100-percent ready.”
Seattle has other players coming back from injuries as well.
Forward Obafemi Martins, midfielder Steve Zakuani and defenders Djimi Traore and Leo Gonzalez were all out of Saturday’s match with the Colorado Rapids, but could be ready to play on either Wednesday or Sunday.
Without Johnson available, Martins would slide in naturally at forward alongside Lamar Neagle and if Dempsey is also included in the lineup, Neagle could move out to the left midfield slot that was occupied by Evans on Saturday. If Gonzalez is available, that also clears Marc Burch to move to the midfield, if needed. Traore could be needed at center back, as Zach Scott will miss both matches because of yellow card accumulation and a red card suspension, leaving Patrick Ianni and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado as the other center back options.
Kickoff for Wednesday’s match against Vancouver is scheduled for 7 pm PT with television coverage on KONG 6/16. The U.S. National Team hosts Jamaica at Sporting Park in Kansas City on Friday at 3:30 pm PT with the television broadcast on ESPN.