Now both turn their focus to an entirely different challenge as they join the United States men’s national team for their massive upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Honduras (Friday, 7:30 p.m. PT; FS1) and Panama.
Morris’ health has become the biggest storyline surrounding his latest USMNT call-up. The reigning MLS Rookie of the Year re-aggravated a preseason ankle injury during the first half against New York and Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the game that the initial plan was to sub him off at halftime before he successfully lobbied to stay in the game.
Asked if he expects the knock to have any impact on his national team availability, Morris said he feels he should be good to go.
“I don’t think so,” Morris said. “I sprained it in preseason a little bit and it’s the same ankle. But I played 60 minutes on it or whatever, so that’s promising. I’ll get it looked at down there but I think it’ll be fine.
“It’s very exciting and always such an honor to get called in and represent your country,” he added. “Whatever role I have on the team, I’m going to try and embrace it and just hopefully do the best I can when I get out there. I’m just excited for the opportunity.”
As for Dempsey, the call-up marks his return to the international fold after he was sidelined from competitive soccer for six months with an irregular heartbeat. The longtime USMNT veteran has shown strong form in his matches with the Sounders thus far, scoring in their season opener against the Houston Dynamo on March 4 before Sunday’s penalty-kick tally.
But jumping from the club season right into a pair of high-intensity, do-or-die qualifiers is a different animal. That extra mileage is something Schmetzer will have to manage for both of his star forwards ahead of Seattle’s next game — a home fixture against Atlanta United on March 31.
“The double duty is certainly something that we have to deal with,” Schmetzer said. That’s just part of life in MLS. Certainly we wish them well in their adventures.
“We deal with it. We’re making sure that players, when they come back from trips, they get business class or first class. We also make sure we don’t put anybody at risk. If a guy plays two international [games] in a row and then we have to play on two days’ rest, those are some decisions that we have to make based on the play of the players on international duty.”