Lamar Neagle

Playing without key contributors, Sounders look to continue building momentum at D.C. United

Sounders FC vs. D.C. United

MLS Regular Season
Saturday, June 28; 4 pm PT; RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
TV/Radio: JOEtv (locally, KZJO channel 22/cable 10); ROOT Sports (regionally); KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)

Sounders FC got off to a hot start to the MLS season and leads the league with a 10-3-2 record.

Now, after a three-week hiatus from MLS play for the World Cup break, Seattle returns to the field on Saturday against D.C. United looking to carry the momentum from that hot start into the final 19 games of the regular season.

“We don’t want to come back now and get in a slump and all that hard work we put in before goes away,” said Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “So it’s really important to come out strong in these next couple of games and get in a rhythm.”

Frei is one of just three players – Osvaldo Alonso and Obafemi Martins being the others – that have played in all 15 MLS games this season. However, none of those three played in either of the two U.S. Open Cup matches Seattle played during the World Cup break. Those matches against amateur side PSA Elite and MLS foes the San Jose Earthquakes helped regain a rhythm during the break from league play.

That will be of importance particularly when Seattle’s absences are taken into account. Already playing without U.S. National Team contributors Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin at the World Cup, Seattle will also play without Martins, who is serving a red card suspension, and injured center back Djimi Traore.

With his two top forwards unavailable in Dempsey and Martins, Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid got the opportunity to look at his other forward options during the Open Cup matches and saw encouraging results.

“[Kenny] Cooper’s gotten three goals in two Open Cup games. [Cam] Weaver did a good job in terms of what we needed him to do. Chad Barrett has come into both Open Cup games and really livened up the game. Tristan Bowen is back from his concussion, so he becomes available again,” Schmid said. “We have options and we need different people to step up.”

Defensively, Seattle will be up against a familiar face in D.C.’s Eddie Johnson. The volatile forward played the 2012 and 2013 seasons with Sounders FC, scoring 23 goals in that time. He has struggled since his off-season trade to United, scoring just one goal in 12 matches.

However, his former teammates aren’t about to take him lightly, especially with the motivation of playing against his former team.

“Eddie’s a quality player and you add that extra motivation of playing against a team that he just came from and it’s a game that he’ll certainly rise to the occasion to and we’ve got to be very good defensively,” Seattle center back Zach Scott said.

D.C. will be playing without midfield captain Davy Arnaud and veteran defender (and another former Sounder) Jeff Parke due to injury, as well as leading scorer Fabian Espindola due to suspension. However, it still leads the Eastern Conference with a 7-4-4 record, good for the second-best record in MLS.

It will surely be a tough matchup for Seattle and one that the team is approaching with focus and motivation to further distance itself in the standings.

“In this league I think every game is tough. That’s why this league is so exciting. You have to treat every opponent with a lot of respect,” Frei said. “We know they’re a good side, so we’re going to be ready.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 4 pm PT, with television coverage on JOEtv locally and ROOT Sports regionally.