Vancouver to provide Sounders with latest test as busy week looms large

Sounders FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

MLS Regular Season
Saturday, July 5; 7 pm PT; BC Place; Vancouver, BC
TV/Radio: JOEtv (locally, KZJO channel 22/cable 10); ROOT Sports (regionally); KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; THIS TV (KOMO2, Spanish); ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)

Over the next few weeks, players will filter back into the Sounders FC lineup, making it feel like the club is adding new players to a squad that has raced to a 10-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield race.  However, in most cases, those will be players returning after long absences. On Saturday, one such face will be that of Obafemi Martins as the club’s joint-leading scorer returns from a one-match suspension that, when added to the World Cup break, kept him out of action for nearly a month.

Soon, Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin will return from their stints with the U.S. National Team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. On Saturday, Martins will make his return from that suspension as Seattle faces Vancouver Whitecaps FC in Sounders FC’s third Cascadia Cup match of the season.

“I don’t even know that guy,” Sounders FC’s Lamar Neagle laughed after a recent training session.  “It’s going to be great.  He’s going to be feeling good after he had a bit of a break.  He’s looking sharp in training and I’m excited to see what he’s going to do.”

Martins has been a pivotal part of Seattle’s offense with and without Dempsey, ranking fourth in MLS with eight goals and third with six assists.  He had two goals against the Chicago Fire before being sent off in the first half as Seattle went on to a 3-2 victory just before the World Cup break.  Now back available to Seattle Head Coach Sigi Schmid, he brings a unique dynamic to Sounders FC’s attack.

“He’s had a great season and he puts a lot of pressure on the opponent,” Schmid said.  “His speed is something that stretches the opponent’s defense which is something that we didn’t really get to do too well when we played against D.C.  He always helps us.”

While Martins will be back, Seattle will also miss the services of Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda in the midfield as the duo serves their suspensions for yellow card accumulation. 

Defenders Djimi Traore and Dylan Remick are also working their way back from injuries and are not likely to be ready before Saturday.

However, Schmid has not been afraid to utilize the club’s deep roster this season, using 17 field players in at least six matches already this season.

“Different guys have stepped up and different guys have played.  Our depth is good, but we’remissing some people in our depth right now and that is testing it even more,” Schmid said.  “When we go into a game, we don’t talk about who’s missing.  We talk about who’s playing.”

That confidence is held by the players on the field too.

“We believe in everybody’s ability on this team.  Everybody that’s on this squad is here for a reason,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei.  “We believe in each other and so far, we’ve been doing good."

Seattle is second to Vancouver in the Cascadia Cup standings, which also feature the Portland Timbers.  Sounders FC is 0-0-2 (2 points), while Vancouver is 1-0-1 (4 points).  Portland is 0-1-1 and will visit CenturyLink Field on July 13 in the next match of the series.