Sounders FC gears up for road game with Real Salt Lake
Sounders FC's injury report is nearly blank. National team call-ups are back or en route. But now there's another obstacle potentially preventing Seattle from fielding a first-choice lineup: the schedule.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sounders @ Real Salt Lake,
6 p.m., KONG
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TUKWILA — The group, finally, is just about back together.
Sounders FC's injury report is nearly blank. National team call-ups are back or en route.
But now there's another obstacle potentially preventing Seattle from fielding a first-choice lineup: the schedule. The Sounders plays twice in the next four days, starting with Saturday's 6 p.m. road game at Real Salt Lake and finishing with the opener of a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Mexico's Santos Laguna.
So how does coach Sigi Schmid manage the lineup over the two games?
"I don't know. What do you think?" Schmid said jokingly to reporters.
"That's something we're still looking at," he continued. "We have to balance it off a little bit and see what we have."
What the Sounders have, at least, is options.
Top forwards Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson returned from international duty this week and are ready to go. Midfielders Brad Evans and Shalrie Joseph have recovered from calf strains.
All four should be available Saturday and Tuesday, but their respective roles will need managing.
"We're going to try and put the best lineup out for each game," Schmid said. "It's early in the season ... and guys want to be on the field."
On the other side of the field, Real Salt Lake will have a new look Saturday. The perennial power in the Western Conference had a bit of an offseason shake-up following remarkable lineup consistency dating to its 2009 MLS Cup-winning team.
Gone are steady veterans like defender Jamison Olave and forward Fabian Espindola (both traded to New York) and midfielder Will Johnson (traded to Portland).
"They play the same system," said Sounders assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, noting RSL's four-man midfield in a diamond formation. "It's different personalities for sure, so it makes them look perhaps a little bit different, but the quality they show in possession and how they play and line up is all the same."
The Sounders should know that style well. The teams met in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs, and Saturday will mark the seventh meeting between the two at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
The venue has housed some of Seattle's greatest moments — like ending RSL's 29-game home unbeaten streak and the Sounders' playoff drought — and perhaps the Sounders' worst defeat, a 3-0 loss in the first leg of the 2011 conference semifinals.
"I think we had one big defeat there, and obviously we paid the price for that one, but I remember more the other side of it," Schmid said. "I remember us stopping their streak and getting some good results ... There are also some good memories.
"Again, we feel we're a good road team. We felt like we were in the game all last week (a 1-0 road loss to San Jose). We just need to get a result to get our confidence, or to substantiate our confidence, and then go from there."
• Mario Martinez still hadn't arrived in Seattle as of Friday's practice. His flight out of Honduras was delayed, according to a team spokesman.
• Newly signed forward/midfielder Philip Lund has returned to Denmark to get his P-1 visa.
• The Sounders have sold about 16,500 tickets for Tuesday's CCL game, according to a team spokesman. Tickets are still available.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @joshuamayers