Injury to high-scoring Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson not as bad as feared
MRI results showed Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson suffered just a slight hamstring strain in Sunday's regular-season finale. He has an outside chance of playing in Friday's home playoff game, coach Sigi Schmid said, and should definitely be ready by Game 2 next week at Salt Lake.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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TUKWILA — Sounders FC received good news this week when an MRI revealed forward Eddie Johnson suffered just a slight hamstring strain in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The sight of Seattle's leading scorer limping off the field just before the start of the playoffs was a hold-your-breath moment.
Fans, teammates and coaches could exhale Tuesday.
"It's not nearly as bad as we had feared it might be," said coach Sigi Schmid.
Johnson, who set a franchise record with 14 goals this season, didn't practice Tuesday and will be evaluated again Wednesday. Schmid said Johnson has an outside chance of playing in the first leg Friday of a two-game Western Conference semifinal against Real Salt Lake.
If that's too soon, playing in the second leg on Nov. 8 on the road "shouldn't be a problem," the coach added.
The real problem will be cracking a Real Salt Lake defense that didn't allow a goal in three games versus Seattle this season. The task would be even harder without Johnson, but Schmid said the Sounders have three primary replacement options in Sammy Ochoa (eight goals in all competitions), David Estrada (four goals in Weeks 1 and 2 while Johnson was hurt) and Steve Zakuani (10 goals in 2010 and back from injury).
Another option could be playing midfielder Mauro Rosales, who suffered a knee injury just before last year's playoffs, up front at forward.
"The guys that are healthy are the guys that are going to play, just like last year," Schmid said. "Certainly, we missed Mauro, and if Eddie can't play, then we'll miss him, but other guys have to step up and do the business."
Rosales said the Sounders have confidence in whichever teammate fills in.
"Everybody's ready," the team captain said. "Sammy or David or whoever is going to play is going to do their best for the team. We have to support them."
Ochoa, who started against RSL a couple of weeks ago while Johnson was with the U.S. national team, averages a team-high 0.85 goals per 90 minutes, but much of that success has come in nonleague competition. Of his eight goals, four were in the CONCACAF Champions League and three were in the U.S. Open Cup.
Ochoa said he's ready if needed: "I'd rather score a couple goals in the playoffs than the eight I had all year."
Parke: "I'm playing"
Jeff Parke was another injury worry this week after he was forced to sub out of Sunday's game due to hamstring tightness. The move was precautionary, though, and the defender said he felt good Tuesday.
"I'm playing," Parke said. "I'm not worried about it. I lifted today and ran, and tomorrow we'll start practicing again."
• Leo Gonzalez (hamstring strain) and Patrick Ianni (calf strain) are "getting better every day," according to Schmid. The defenders practiced mostly off to the side Tuesday with midfielder Andy Rose (adductor strain).
• Gonzalez and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso are the only active Sounders who have played every playoff minute in club history from 2009 to 2011.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @joshuamayers