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Originally published March 1, 2013 at 8:04 PM | Page modified March 2, 2013 at 3:17 PM

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Sounders FC not at full strength for season opener against Montreal

Sounders FC is dealing with suspensions, injuries and an ongoing pursuit of a star forward, but opens its fifth MLS season at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Montreal at CenturyLink Field.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Montreal @ Sounders FC, 7:30 p.m., Ch. 5

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TUKWILA — Ready for the 2013 MLS season?

For Sounders FC, the answer might be: not completely.

Facing suspensions, injuries and an ongoing pursuit of a star forward abroad, Seattle is far from full strength as it kicks off Year 5 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against the Montreal Impact at CenturyLink Field.

Roster construction and other preparation will continue beyond opening weekend, but preseason can't last forever.

"It's good to have that first competitive match coming up," said midfielder Brad Evans. "I think guys are hungry."

So what's the damage in terms of player availability for the season opener?

Well, Seattle has two players suspended: star midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who received a red card following Seattle's final playoff game last year, and defender Marc Burch, who will complete a three-game suspension that also dates to the 2012 postseason.

Regarding injuries, starting right back Adam Johansson is questionable with a sprained right knee and center back Patrick Ianni is out with a fractured right foot.

Midfielder Shalrie Joseph and defender Djimi Traore, two veterans acquired in the past two weeks, might also need more time to get game-ready (Joseph also has a calf strain).

But while the Sounders are working toward midseason shape, motivation will come from a crowd of about 40,000 in a city that has set MLS records for average attendance each of the past four years.

"There's nothing like running out in that stadium in Seattle in front of those fans," said midfielder Steve Zakuani. "Last time we did it they clapped us off (after losing to Los Angeles in the playoffs), but now we can come back and show that we've made an improvement. The most exciting part is to be able to repay these fans with three points."

The big addition of Nigerian forward Obafemi Martins would make fans happy, as well, though reports out of Spain indicate Levante UD officials have turned down the Sounders' most recent offer. The saga could draw out into next week, and the deadline for a move is May 6.

Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer, in a radio interview Friday with KJR-AM, said "these deals are always complicated, especially when you're dealing with teams in big leagues in Europe who don't necessarily play nice and don't want to give up players.

"Everything is always about money to some degree, but there's just a process we have to go through. ... Those conversations are ongoing, and hopefully we'll have something to report at some point soon."

Notes

• Saturday marks the deadline to buy out a player's contract, something the Sounders are expected to do with midfielder Christian Tiffert to open up a designated-player slot on the roster for Martins.

• Seattle received a fourth-round pick in the 2014 supplemental draft Friday from San Jose in exchange for the rights to forward/midfielder Cordell Cato.

• Reign FC has acquired midfielder Keelin Winters in a trade with Chicago for a 2014 first-round pick and, according to EqualizerSoccer.com, the rights to one of Seattle's U.S. national-team players. Reign FC also received a 2014 fourth-round pick in the deal. The team signed Puyallup native Lyndsey Patterson on Thursday.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @joshuamayers

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