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Originally published Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 9:09 PM

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Sounders finally have all their pieces back

Thursday marked the first time this MLS season that Seattle practiced with a full squad, after injuries and national-team duty had depleted the team's lineup.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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TUKWILA — Sounders FC had a minor breakthrough Thursday, seven weeks into the MLS season.

For the first time in 2013, the team practiced with a full squad.

That Seattle had to wait so long for something so simple is just one factor in a franchise-worst and last-place 0-3-2 start. But it's an important one.

Injuries, national-team call-ups and, of course, poor play have resulted in coach Sigi Schmid fielding nine different lineups in nine games in MLS and CONCACAF Champions League.

Seattle has used 24 different players already — nine at forward, alone — and had 21 different starters across both competitions. As a comparison, first-place FC Dallas has 10 players who have started at least six of the team's seven games.

Consistency and cohesion matter.

"Now it seems like we have a full group — finally," said midfielder Mauro Rosales. "Since preseason, this is the first time that almost everybody is fit, everybody is getting in rhythm, and we can train finally together. We haven't been able to do that in the past two, three months, and I think it's something that we needed."

Rosales has been on the wrong end of lineup shuffling. The team captain was benched, a first since he joined the team in 2011, for the CCL semifinals against Mexico's Santos Laguna, though he did make substitute appearances in both games and eventually worked his way back to a starting role.

Other regulars like midfielder Steve Zakuani and defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, two "original" Sounders from 2009, have gone from starters to reserves to starters.

Asked specifically about Rosales' benching, Schmid had an answer fitting for a larger scale.

"We haven't played well as a team," he said, "so when you don't play well as a team, then you start looking at what combinations might work a little bit better."

Lineup shifting, the Sounders hope, should soon turn into lineup resolution, particularly when it comes from a preferred, first-choice selection. And for a goal-starved team, the returns of top forwards Eddie Johnson (hamstring) and Obafemi Martins (knee) are at the forefront.

Johnson is further along than Martins this week, but the dynamic tandem could soon be back in action.

Though Schmid cautioned, "You can't say, 'OK, well, once these guys come back, then all our problems are solved.' "

Midfielder Shalrie Joseph, a designated player acquired from Chivas USA in a preseason trade, knows a thing or two about MLS struggles, as his personal winless streak is 0-16-7 dating to July.

One important trait to maintain, Joseph said, is self-confidence, but even though the Sounders believe they are one of the better teams in the league, "we can't say that; we have to prove it."

Johnson would just as soon forget the 0-3-2 start.

"What's in the past is in the past," he said. "We can't control what's already happened. It's about onwards and forwards. We have another opportunity with a healthier team this weekend to put things right."

NOTES

• Rookie forward Will Bates wrote on Twitter late Thursday afternoon that he had signed with the Sounders. The team had no update to provide. The 22-year-old Virginia product was acquired in January's supplemental draft and would give Seattle a full roster of 30.

• The Sounders will play a reserve game May 12 at 4 p.m. against Orlando City SC at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. The game was originally scheduled for Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, but will instead be used as a test to see if Tacoma would be a good location for an affiliate in USL PRO, the third tier of American soccer.

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

On Twitter @joshuamayers

Sounder Shuffle
A look at how many players have been used in each part of the lineup in MLS play and how many times the starter at a position has been changed from week to week.
No. in lineup Total players used Starter changes
Defenders 4 6 6
Midfielders 4 8 5
Forwards 2 7 5
Note: Just four players have started every MLS game: GK Michael Gspurning, D DeAndre Yedlin, D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and M/F Steve Zakuani

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