Sounders Bowen, Gonzalez set for debuts

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comMarch 19, 2014 

A couple of Seattle Sounders who weren’t able to start the season along with their teammates might make their season debuts Saturday at Montreal.

Defender Leo Gonzalez and forward Tristan Bowen are in full training this week and believe they are ready to contribute against the Impact.

The wait caused by a quadriceps injury has been particularly difficult for Bowen, who is new to the club after being acquired in an offseason trade with Chivas USA.

“It was very frustrating sitting up in the stands and not being able to play a part helping the guys on the field physically,” Bowen said this week. “It was tough, especially seeing the atmosphere and the way the fans get behind the team. It’s a completely different experience being a player on the home team.”

Bowen watched as the Sounders pulled out a 1-0 win in the opener against Sporting Kansas City, and watched again as Seattle fell, 2-1, to Toronto FC. Now he believes he is ready to help when the Sounders play their first road match of the season.

“It’s a matter of the coaching staff deciding whether they think that I can come in and impact the game,” he said. “And that’s what training is for: going out there every day and showing the coaches that I’m ready … to contribute.”

Among the Sounders’ offseason goals were getting younger and more athletic. They improved in both areas with the trade that sent Mauro Rosales, who is 33 years old, to Chivas for Bowen, who is 23.

Despite his relatively young age, Bowen is in his sixth professional season. He became Major League Soccer’s first homegrown player when he signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2008 after going through its academy system. He played with the first team in 2009 and 2010 before being traded to Chivas, where he played from 2011-13.

He has 28 starts and 48 appearances over his five MLS seasons, recording four goals and six assists.

“Tristan is a young player who has good experience in this league,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said at the time of the trade. “He is very athletic and has the ability to play multiple positions.”

That versatility could come in handy, as the Sounders have gone two games without him while using players such as Obafemi Martins, Kenny Cooper, Chad Barrett, Lamar Neagle and Sean Okoli in the forward or wide midfielder roles Bowen might occupy.

Still, Bowen believes his distinct skills offer ways to contribute.

“Everyone’s here for a reason, and everyone has different qualities,” he said. “I certainly bring something different to the team, and I think through hard work and doing the right things I can certainly win a spot. There’s a reason why I’m here, as well as the other players. I’m definitely looking forward to making Sigi’s job a lot harder.”

Meanwhile, Schmid has indicated there is no decision to make at left back, where he has said incumbent starter Gonzalez will displace Dylan Remick once healthy.

“You don’t lose the job because of injury,” Schmid said. “Leo has proven himself to be a very competent left back for us and does a great job defending for us.”

Gonzalez said last week that he is fully recovered from his groin injury, and the only remaining issue is game fitness.

If he is judged ready to go this week, Schmid said the artificial surface at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium would not be a factor that would work against Gonzalez’s return.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 @donruiztnt

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