Sounders lack punch with injuries to forwards

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comApril 15, 2013 

The Seattle Sounders’ inability to score Saturday was no statistical shock.

With his top three forwards out because of injuries, coach Sigi Schmid started 10 field players who had accounted for 96 goals in their combined 625 MLS career games.

None of the 10 has scored yet this season.

In fact, Seattle has just two goals in its first five Major League Soccer games: one each by forward Eddie Johnson and midfielder Brad Evans.

Both players were sidelined by injuries Saturday in what turned out to be a scoreless draw against New England.

Also out were forwards Obafemi Martins and David Estrada.

And that concentration of injuries at forward caused Schmid to move midfielders Steve Zakuani and Lamar Neagle to forward.

Both had chances. Zakuani took four shots and put two on goal. Neagle took two shots and put one on goal.

Afterward Schmid was asked about their performances.

On Neagle: “He needs to maybe get a few more looks himself onto goal. … Lamar did what I asked him to do: He stayed high, he occupied the back two, he made runs in behind the defense, he won his duel with A.J. Soares in terms of the aerial dual and things like that. … I was happy with how he played. I thought he put in a good shift.”

On Zakuani: “In the Santos game (in Champions League) he was the guy that was most closely involved with the majority of our chances. … I thought he did an even better job this game, through especially the first 45, staying high and being more of a threat to their back line.

“Again, he had two really quality looks in the first half, then he had a quality look that he created himself in the second half off the dribble. If you finish one of those three — we don’t need all three, I just need one of those three — and (we win). There’s nobody that feels worse than he does.”

Schmid was right about that.

“The biggest disappointments for me are those small ones that can turn one point into three points,” Zakuani said. “I feel more disappointed for my teammates because I really want to get those balls in. … We just need one goal to go in. We just need it. That’s the most disappointing thing.”

Neagle played all 90 minutes.

Zakuani went 74 minutes before being replaced by Philip Lund, who made his MLS debut.

It isn’t yet known if any of the three injured forwards will return Saturday, when the Sounders begin a three-game MLS road trip at Colorado. Johnson has a hamstring injury, Martins a leg tendon injury and Estrada an eye injury.

Schmid was asked after the New England game if one of those forwards might have turned an opportunity into a goal.

“They’re all soccer players, so they should all finish,” he said. “If you had an actual forward there, maybe if he gets that opportunity, maybe his quality is better. That’s why some guys start and other guys don’t.

“The guys right now today were Neagle and Zakuani, and it was their opportunity to try to finish something. The next time we’ll have to see.

“We’ll obviously have to find somebody who can finish consistently and at the same time supply us as well with the work rate we need.”

REIGN PLAYS TO DRAW

Seattle Reign FC opened its inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season Sunday with a 1-1 draw at the Chicago Red Stars.

In the 11th minute, Christine Nairn recorded the first goal in Reign history on a cross from Liz Bogus.

Chicago equalized 14 minutes later.

The Reign returns to NWSL play at 2 p.m. Sunday at Portland. The Reign’s home opener is scheduled for May 4, when Kansas City visits Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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