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Originally published Friday, February 24, 2012 at 7:37 PM

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Sounders FC's forward position remains in flux

Some fitness concerns at forward could result in some early season mixing and matching for Sounders FC. David Estrada might stand to benefit the most.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Sounders FC's forward pairing for the season appears set. Well, at least in the long term.

Newly acquired Eddie Johnson figures to start alongside Fredy Montero once he gets in game shape, but how long will that take?

Along with Johnson, who suffered a minor hamstring injury Sunday in a training game, coach Sigi Schmid has indicated that forward Sammy Ochoa also still has physical gains to make.

Such uncertainty following last week's trade of Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle to Montreal could lead to some mixing and matching at forward in the early part of the season.

David Estrada could stand to gain the most from the flux.

Estrada, who moved to forward midway through training camp, is tied with Montero for the team's preseason lead with three goals. Starting together in Wednesday's training game against Mexico's Atlante FC, Estrada and Montero combined for three goals and an assist in the 5-2 win.

"David's made big strides," said Schmid of Estrada, one of the team's biggest camp surprises.

Taken by Seattle in the first round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, Estrada has played in just six MLS games his first two seasons. The 24-year-old started out mostly as a wide midfielder, then saw some time as a defender before Schmid decided to play him at forward, in part to fill out the team's depth.

Other options up front include midfielders Christian Sivebaek, a 6-foot-3 newcomer from Denmark, and Cordell Cato, a speedy 19-year-old Trinidadian.

Last week's trade was bound to present opportunities for playing time.

"The door is open for some other people," Schmid said. "Yeah, it's a different set of names, but there are still some people who can play."

Weber signing close?

Invitee goalkeeper Andrew Weber indicated on Twitter that he's close to signing with Sounders FC. He has been in contention for the backup role behind Michael Gspurning and has drawn high praise from the coaching staff throughout camp.

Weber's tweet read: "Feels good to finally get the paperwork done! All that's left is for a few signatures and it will be official! #GoSounders!"

Notes

• The installation of new FieldTurf at CenturyLink Field was completed Friday. The Sounders are scheduled to practice on the new surface Monday and Tuesday, leading to Wednesday's preseason finale against Mexico's Jaguares de Chiapas at 7 p.m.

• The Sounders Women are rumored to be in talks with 22-year-old forward Alex Morgan, a star on the U.S. women's national team. Said general manager Amy Carnell in a statement: "Alex is certainly a player we would be interested in signing, as would any other team in this league."

• The Sounders FC U23s have signed academy products Darwin Jones, DeAndre Yedlin and Troy Peterson as their first three players. The U23s are an amateur team in the USL Premier Development League, re-branded from the Tacoma Tide, which recently affiliated with Sounders FC as a part of its youth development program.

• The U23s will hold open tryouts at the University of Puget Sound on March 10-11. Tryouts for the Sounders' U17 and U15 youth academy teams, which are not a part of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, are March 1-2 at the Starfire Sports Campus in Tukwila. Information is available at SoundersFC.com.

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

On Twitter @joshuamayers

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