This week, the Sounders are starting to feel whole again.
After a week that saw them fall 1-0 twice in matches where they outbattled their highly touted opponents, Seattle may return as many as four players to the field who missed one or both of those matches against the LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls.
Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani, Nate Jaqua and Mike Seamon all have been much more involved in training this week and could figure much more prominently in head coach Sigi Schmid’s gameplan as the Sounders prepare for the second week of the MLS season and a match on Friday against the Houston Dynamo.
“Each day is a re-evaluation of what happened the day before,” Schmid said. “Certainly if we can bring those guys back into the fold, either starting or off the bench, it’s going to improve the strength of our team.”
The players who have been absent or limited are nothing short of vital for the Sounders, as well.
Zakuani broke out with ten goals and six assists in 2010 after being a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year honors in 2009 with four goals and four assists. A hip injury limited him against LA and kept him out of Saturday’s match at Red Bull Arena.
Jaqua scored nine goals to go with seven assists in the club’s inaugural season and added three assists in a limited role in 2010, though he did score five goals to help the Sounders win their second straight Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. He had off-season hip surgery and missed the first two matches of the season while finishing the final stages of his rehab.
Evans has four goals and five assists in 39 appearances for the Sounders, but had his 2010 season cut short by a knee injury. He missed the first two matches with a hamstring strain.
Add in dynamic second-year midfielder Seamon and the possible return of the veteran play of Pat Noonan and the Sounders could have a vastly different 18-man roster on Friday night.
“It’s important to get our big guns back,” defender Jeff Parke said. “Nate’s a very important part to this team, so it’s good to see him back. Brad is an important link in the middle and Zakuani’s speed is lethal out there on the outside. We need all three of those players to be healthy.”
Added Zakuani of his recovering teammates, Jaqua and Evans, “Those are important players. Between them they have so many MLS games. The young guys that have come in have done great, but I think sometimes you need that stability that those guys provide. We’ve played 60-70 games together so we know each other pretty well and once you get your key pieces back, it’s going to be very important.”
The left winger views himself as an addition to the club for Friday, too. Though he played in the season opener against the Galaxy, he knows he wasn’t at full strength and that, now that he’s had some rest, he’ll have much more to offer against Houston and beyond.
“For me, my season starts now,” he said. “I had an injury building up to the LA game and so rather than preparing for the game, I was always conscious of missing the game. Now I’m healthy, I feel good and I’m ready to get some games under my belt.”
Kickoff is set for 7 pm from Qwest Field and tickets are still available at SoundersFC.com and by calling 877-MLS-GOAL.