Sounders FC, Real Salt Lake meet without key players
The Sounders host Real Salt Lake in an important game Wednesday for playoff seeding, but both teams will be short-handed after a date change resulted in a conflict with FIFA World Cup qualifiers
Seattle Times staff reporter
Real Salt Lake @ Sounders, 7 p.m., KONG
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TUKWILA — Sounders FC will play an important league game Wednesday in regards to seeding for the upcoming MLS Cup playoffs.
Too bad neither Seattle nor its opponent, Western Conference rival Real Salt Lake, will be at full strength.
The Sounders could be without the services of star forward Eddie Johnson, starting right back Adam Johansson and reserve midfielder Mario Martinez due to involvement Tuesday with their respective national teams. RSL is expected to be without forward Alvaro Saborio, who ranks second in MLS with 17 goals, starting midfielder Will Johnson and potentially a couple others for the same reason.
So why will the big game be without some of the league's biggest stars?
Well, the date was moved to Wednesday back in February to accommodate Seattle's summer friendly with English club Chelsea FC, and Tuesday is a particularly busy day in the soccer world with a full slate of FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
"Things like that happen," coach Sigi Schmid said when asked if the conflict was frustrating. "You can stand on your head and you're not going to change it — at least I can't."
Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer said the circumstances will factor into the team's discussions regarding future friendlies, but this potential consequence was anticipated months ago when the change was announced.
"We did discuss the fact that both teams would likely be missing players and that it's just one of those compromises, I guess, that had to be made to accommodate the (friendly)," Hanauer said. "Certainly big thanks to RSL, because they didn't have to move the game and find themselves in this situation."
The Sounders have other reasons to be thankful to this week's opponent.
RSL will actually be flying Johnson to Seattle on Tuesday night from Kansas City, where the U.S. national team will play an important qualifier versus Guatemala. Salt Lake's plan was originally just to fly its own USMNT players — midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando — here from the game, but the team agreed to add Johnson to the passenger list.
"We're doing Seattle a big solid," RSL coach Jason Kreis told reporters Monday. "Hopefully, the good karma will come back to us. A host of people have had a discussion about it over the last day or so, and we decided to do what we think is the right thing."
The Sounders expressed gratitude for the gesture, but Schmid noted Johnson would likely only play off the bench, if at all. The forward had a breakthrough two-goal performance for the U.S. in Friday's qualifier, which will likely result in a significant role Tuesday.
"We don't want to take a player who's played 90 minutes on a Tuesday, flown back to Seattle, and try and get him out there for 15 to 20 minutes and risk injury," Schmid said.
• The NBC Sports Network will pick up Wednesday's local TV broadcast and air the game nationally. Ross Fletcher and Kasey Keller will be on the call, which will still be available on KONG-TV 6/16 and regionally on ROOT Sports Northwest.
• Defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado will be fitted for a protective mask after sustaining a fractured cheekbone in last week's game against Portland.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org