Sounders looking to bounce back quickly
Following a disappointing exit in the CONCACAF Champions League, a quick turnaround could be exactly what the Sounders need before their MLS opener against Toronto FC at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Toronto FC @ Sounders FC,
7 p.m., KONG
5 key gamesJune 16, at Montreal: Expect a blowout event when the expansion side unveils its new stadium. Montreal also has seven former Sounders, from MLS and the USL, on its roster and staff.
July 4, at Real Salt Lake: Another big Fourth of July road game takes Seattle back to the site of perhaps its worst loss in franchise history, a 3-0 playoff defeat in October.
Aug. 18, vs. Vancouver: Don't miss the first Cascadia game in Seattle. Rumor has it the capacity at CenturyLink Field could be expanded for this rivalry clash.
Sept. 15, at Portland: Games against the Timbers are always a must-see, but this late-season contest will be the first MLS game of the season broadcast on network television.
Oct. 28, at Los Angeles: A playoff preview? Both teams are expected to be leaders in the West this year, so expect fireworks in the regular-season finale.
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Under most circumstances, having just one day of practice leading into opening day would seem crazy.
For the Sounders — coming off a discomforting 6-1 defeat against Mexico's Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League — it could be just what they need.
"I know as a player, if you have a poor result, you want to play as quickly as you can," said technical director Chris Henderson. "A full week to wait for a game is sometimes tough when you've had a bad loss."
With motivation somewhat atypical of opening day, Seattle plays host to Toronto FC in its regular-season opener at 7 p.m. Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
Along with the usual hopes and aspirations that the start of the season provides, the Sounders also are coming in with something to prove — mainly that they're not as bad as the blowout Wednesday suggests.
"You just want to erase that memory as quickly as possible," said coach Sigi Schmid. "I think guys will be ready and they'll be anxious."
A lightning-quick turnaround will have some ramifications.
The Sounders are expected to make a number of lineup changes and rest a handful of starters. Toronto will likely do the same, also coming off a midweek CCL quarterfinal in which it beat the favored Los Angeles Galaxy.
Henderson said that upset might be the pinnacle moment in Toronto FC's history, and the Sounders are expecting a confident opponent.
"They're a dynamic team," said midfielder Brad Evans. "They've added a few new pieces ... but for us it's all about being hungry. We're not worried about them too much; at this point we have to focus on ourselves."
The main worry for the Sounders is on defense.
The six goals allowed Wednesday were the most in club history and the most ever conceded by an MLS team in CCL. Schmid said he's not ready to "push a panic button" just yet.
"It's like everything in life: If you react to every exception, what you're going to do is you're going to be jumping around from one thing to another thing," the coach said. "You have to look at a body of work, and our body of work has been good. ... Was I happy with our defending on that day? No, I wasn't happy with our defending on that day — and that's the entire 11-man squad. On the same token, I can't react to an exception. If it becomes a rule, then certainly we have to say, 'Hey, maybe we're doing something wrong in our approach, our preparation and maybe the people that we have.' "
The Sounders have done well rebounding from defeats in the past. Last year, Seattle followed up its losses with a 7-2-2 record and closed the season with six victories in a row under those circumstances.
And lofty goals for 2012 won't allow for a letdown.
"As a club, we need to build on what we've done in the past," said Evans. "Obviously we're happy with what we've done in the past, but it's not good enough. This is a club from top to bottom that wants to do better. We want to see more trophies and more victories."
• Forward Eddie Johnson is doubtful for Saturday after injuring his hip Wednesday. Schmid said there isn't a timeline yet for his return.
• Steve Zakuani continues to recover well from a broken leg and related complications. Schmid said it was possible the midfielder could play in some reserve games in April, "but that's something we have to evaluate. We haven't really sat down and said this is the goal or not the goal."
• The Sounders have before kickoff to decide whether to buy out O'Brian White's contract. The forward has been dealing with a complicated recovery from recurring blood clots in his left leg.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers