After starting at central midfield in the first four matches of the season, Sounders FC veteran Gonzalo Pineda will miss Sunday’s clash with the LA Galaxy while serving a one-game suspension.
Pineda was issued a red card for his tackle on Ricardo Clark in the second half of last weekend’s win over the Houston Dynamo. The good news for Seattle, though, is that Osvaldo Alonso is back in the mix and the club has viable options for the open spot in the midfield.
Andy Rose, Micheal Azira and rookie Cristian Roldan are the three candidates to start alongside Alonso on Sunday. Rose and Azira have appeared in all four games and played over 200 minutes this year, while Roldan has been on the pitch for 72 minutes, including a start against FC Dallas.
The victory over Houston was Alonso’s first match of the season. After training on Tuesday, Head Coach Sigi Schmid reiterated that the All-Star midfielder is on track to play again this weekend.
“He’s still not 100 percent game-fit, and his game touches aren’t 100 percent there yet, but I think he was really good for his first time out,” Schmid said of Alonso, who had been sidelined due to offseason groin surgery. “This is an important week for him because he’s recovering from the game. We’re still building his fitness and altering his training at times.”
Seattle’s game against LA on Sunday is sure to be a heated one. If last year’s matchups are any indication, the central midfield could play a massive role in its outcome.
Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas – the Galaxy’s pair of starters in the middle in 2014 – were responsible for the team’s two goals against the Rave Green in the Western Conference Championship. Sarvas, who now plays for the Colorado Rapids, also had a goal and two assists against Seattle in the regular season.
Alonso wasn’t fully healthy for the postseason matchup with LA, missing the First Leg of the series and playing less than 90 minutes in the Second Leg due to his groin injury.
“It’s huge. We all know how great of a player he is,” defender Dylan Remick said of Alonso’s presence. “He definitely changes the way we play. He’s one of the most important players on our team. So it was huge to get him back, and it’s going to be great to have him keep playing in games.”
Lamar Neagle, who has been Alonso’s teammate for five seasons, echoed Remick’s thoughts.
“It’s good just to see him out there. He’s been here since 2009, so he’s one of the staples on the Sounders,” Neagle said. “And obviously he’s been an All-Star almost every single year. It’s like having two players sitting in your defensive midfield. So it was good having him back.”