2013 Forwards Review Image

Sounders to utilize deep bench in upcoming matches

With Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson away on national team duty and injuries and suspensions to deal with, head coach Sigi Schmid has some adjustments to make.

Sounders FC vs. Chivas USA
September 4, 2013, 7 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: KONG 6/16; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)

Sigi Schmid had his work cut out for him in navigating a difficult stretch of three matches in eight days. After the first of those three matches – a 1-0 road win over the Columbus Crew – the task only got more difficult as Sounders FC lost two players to international duty, one to injury and one more to a red card suspension.

However, Schmid has been charged with fielding a shorthanded team in the past and knows his team is up to the challenge this week as Seattle meets Chivas USA on Wednesday and the Chicago Fire on Saturday at CenturyLink Field.

“We’re still going to approach the game trying to win,” Schmid said after training on Monday. “We have to look at where we are physically and try and get a team out on the field that’s ready to play - that has the experience, but is also physically in a good frame.”

Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson joined the U.S. National Team in Miami as they train ahead of a pair of World Cup qualifying matches on Friday against Costa Rica and September 10 against Mexico. Brad Evans was slated to join them, but a calf injury suffered against the Crew left him to rehab in Seattle. Leo Gonzalez’s red card against Columbus also leaves Schmid looking to shift his lineup against Chivas on Wednesday.

Schmid has options at forward, where Johnson and Dempsey have paired in the last two matches, both 1-0 victories. Obafemi Martins is nearing a return from an ankle injury and could be paired with Lamar Neagle, Eriq Zavaleta or David Estrada. Martins and Neagle have shown a strong partnership, netting four goals and five assists in five matches together. Seattle is 4-0-1 in those matches.

However, that leaves open the left side of midfield.

Marc Burch has played there this season, but with the absence of Gonzalez, he is the most likely candidate to start at left back. Burch started 19 matches at left back for Seattle last year and has added two to that total this season, but has featured more often as a left midfielder, making four starts in that role in the last eight matches.

That move, Schmid explained, is a function of the success of Gonzalez.

“We think Burch is a good left back. Leo has done well this year,” Schmid said. “He’s been pretty consistent and held on to the spot and certainly we feel that Burch is a very capable and quality left back.”

With Evans out of the midfield picture, Servando Carrasco is likely to return to a starting role that he held for 12 straight matches earlier this year. When Evans needed a substitute against Columbus, Carrasco stepped into the role and helped Seattle hold on for the victory.

“He’s done well for us playing in there. It’s been a good season for him and hopefully it will continue to be that way,” Schmid said of the 25-year-old midfielder. “I thought he came in in Columbus and I thought he played well. He kept possession for us, he’s defensively pretty solid, stays in good spaces and as long as he continues to do that, he’s a big help for us.”

Steve Zakuani is nearing a return, but this week does not look likely as he recovers from surgery to repair the athletic pubalgia that has sidelined him since April. He has returned to full training, but is not yet ready for game action.

“I think if I tried to rush back, I would do the team a disservice because I wouldn’t be myself,” Zakuani said. “I need to come back when I can be the Steve Zakuani that I know I can be. That’s when I’ll be a help to the team, whenever that is.”

Other midfield options include Andy Rose, Alex Caskey, Blair Gavin and Philip Lund, along with forwards Estrada and Neagle.

“We have to look at those guys and see who’s ready to grab hold of that opportunity,” Schmid said.