This week marks the inevitable trouble of having the U.S. National Team captain on the roster for Sounders FC, as Seattle will play its next five matches or more without the services of superstar forward Clint Dempsey. Along with Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin, Dempsey is leading the charge for the U.S. National Team as it opened camp Wednesday to start preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
That leaves some sizeable holes in the Sounders lineup without the trio of regular starters for Seattle, but it's also one that Head Coach Sigi Schmid is prepared for.
"There are options and as the week goes on we'll make those decisions and we'll see how people play," Schmid said. "Everybody should, for a bad analogy, smell the blood in the water. Certainly the guys who know they're in competition for a chance to get on the field should be at their best this week."
Yedlin is one of five players for Seattle that have started all 11 matches thus far. The 2013 MLS All-Star and starter on the U.S. U-20 World Cup team last summer continues to grow as an offensive threat from the right back position and is developing his defensive game. He has caught Klinsmann's eye, earning his first two caps for the U.S. already this year.
Evans moved rapidly into prominence for the U.S. National Team in 2013, starting in nine of his 10 appearances and establishing himself as the favored right back under Klinsmann. A midfielder by trade, Evans has played as a left back in the last three matches for Seattle – as a starter in the most recent two matches and after an injury substitution in the first. That versatility has made him an attractive piece for Klinsmann to consider, as well as a valuable component in Seattle, where he is tied for second in all-time appearances with 119, netting 17 goals and 20 assists in his Sounders FC career.
Dempsey has captained the U.S. over the past year and has been a leading contender for MLS MVP through the first two and a half months for Sounders FC, totaling eight goals and three assists in nine matches.
There aren't like-for-like changes that Schmid can make with those three players, but with a versatile lineup that had been constructed with these upcoming matches in mind, he is prepared to make the adjustments to put Seattle in the best position to win.
"Every system is really reflective of the players within that system. Obviously Clint is a very important part of our team, so it changes a little bit how we play. But I still think we have guys on the field who are good passers of the ball, guys who can still create things, and it changes a little bit about how we play," he said. "That means other people will have to step up in certain areas, but it's something we can compensate for."
Schmid's options are plentiful all over the field, with players like Jalil Anibaba, Zach Scott, Kenny Cooper and others ready to step into the fray.
That the coaches and teammates are confident in the full depth of Seattle's roster as the club prepares for the first match without Dempsey, Evans and Yedlin on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes.
"I think we have a deep team. Guys need to step up and I'm sure they will. I don't think there will be a huge dropoff in play," defender Chad Marshall said.
While Anibaba and Scott are the most likely players to fill in at right back, Micheal Azira is also an option. At Dempsey's forward spot, Cooper could change the dynamic, but he also may find himself lining up wide with Lamar Neagle rekindling the partnership with Obafemi Martins that proved so fruitful for Sounders FC last year.
"Those are guys that have played a pretty significant role in our team for the year. But what are you going to do?" Neagle said. "We have guys chomping at the bit to get in. I think we have great guys on the field. We have a great offense that can make up for that and we have guys on defense that are ready to go."