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Originally published September 11, 2013 at 5:45 PM | Page modified September 11, 2013 at 7:02 PM

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Sounders FC hoping to finally get to full strength

Full strength has indeed been a mirage for Seattle this season as injuries and international call-ups have been a yearlong issue, but the Sounders hope that starts to change this week heading into Friday’s nationally televised clash with league-leading Real Salt Lake.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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TUKWILA – The realization is a sobering one, especially with seven weeks left in the MLS regular season.

“We still really don’t know what our team looks like with everybody out there,” said Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid.

Full strength has indeed been a mirage for Seattle this season as injuries and international call-ups have been a yearlong issue, but the Sounders hope that begins to change this week heading into Friday’s nationally televised clash against league-leading Real Salt Lake.

U.S. internationals Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson are set to return to practice Thursday, and with the national team qualified for the World Cup, Schmid is hopeful the club-versus-country conflict is over.

“There’s an MLS season going on and teams competing for playoff spots and so forth,” the coach said. “I think Jurgen (Klinsmann) is a smart-enough coach; he’ll understand that and take that into consideration.”

With the playoffs in the not-so-distant future, Seattle has yet to see Dempsey and Johnson on the field with co-leading scorer Obafemi Martins, and playing the three forwards together could involve formation or tactical adjustment.

Sounders stay with Xbox through 2014

Xbox will remain the Sounders’ jersey sponsor for another year. The partnership was set to expire after this season, but general manager Adrian Hanauer confirmed Wednesday the sides have agreed to extend the deal through 2014.

“We’re very happy,” said Hanauer. “It’s been a fantastic partnership. Excited to extend for a year, and hopefully this leads to something even longer-term.”

The team announced in August last year they were looking at other options for a jersey sponsor.

“We wanted to explore the marketplace, but at the same time we always wanted to be with Xbox and Microsoft,” Hanauer said. “I mean they’re the perfect partner. ”

Notes

• About 52,000 tickets have been sold for Friday’s game as one of the dates the Sounders will open up all of CenturyLink Field. Seattle is 6-0 in front of home crowds of more than 50,000.

• Johnson hit his head in Tuesday’s qualifier, but Schmid said the forward is “fine.” Brad Evans is improving from a calf strain, though the team is being cautious of bringing him back too soon. Shalrie Joseph is out (sprained knee).

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

On Twitter @joshuamayers

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