A decision made last winter will reverberate Wednesday when Real Salt Lake visits Seattle Sounders FC for a key Major League Soccer match.
This game, once scheduled for July 18, was moved to accommodate the Sounders’ friendly with Chelsea FC.
The chosen makeup date comes in what would have been a two-week break in the MLS season to accommodate the ongoing World Cup qualifying matches. And that gives the rescheduled Sounders-RSL match a new look, because seven players are away with their national teams.
“We did discuss the fact that both teams would likely be missing players,” Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer said Monday. “And that it’s just one of those compromises, I guess, that had to be made to accommodate the (friendly). Certainly big thanks to RSL, because they didn’t have to move the game and find themselves in this situation. And it’s certainly one of the factors that we discuss and continue to discuss as we move forward on our friendly strategy.”
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Four RSL players are with their national teams: midfielder Kyle Beckerman (U.S.), goalkeeper Nick Rimando (U.S.), forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) and midfielder Will Johnson (Canada); while the Sounders are without forward Eddie Johnson (U.S.), midfielder Mario Martinez (Honduras) and defender Adam Johansson (Sweden).
All of those teams play today: Guatemala at the United States, Canada at Honduras, Guyana at Costa Rica and Sweden at Germany. Yet, at least some players expected to make it to CenturyLink Field in time for the first kick at 7 p.m.
In fact, Johnson, Beckerman and Rimando will travel together from Kansas City, Kan., on a private jet arranged by RSL.
“We’re doing Seattle a big solid, I think,” Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis told Salt Lake City media. “Hopefully, the good karma will come back to us.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid appreciates the gesture, but says the Sounders would have done the same.
“If we were the ones who had a plane there and were bringing Eddie back, we’d bring their two guys back as well,” he said. “I think that’s just good sportsmanship and fair play.”
Yet, just because the players make it back in time for the game doesn’t mean all will be ready to contribute.
“It really comes down to how many minutes each guy plays,” Schmid said. “So if Beckerman’s playing 90 minutes (tonight), then they possibly lose Beckerman for our game. If he doesn’t play – like he didn’t play against Antigua – then he’s possibly able to go and start against us.”
Johnson will probably get a lot of playing time today, and therefore is unlikely to be available Wednesday.
He went 90 minutes and scored both goals in the Americans’ 2-1 win at Antigua and Barbuda last week. With the U.S. needing a win or draw today to assure advancing, that performance probably earned Johnson a spot in the lineup again today.
“His chances of probably getting significant minutes (today) increased dramatically,” Schmid said. “ (So) I don’t see him being available to us in a starting situation. Maybe he is somebody who can come off the bench. But we have to look at the playoffs and so forth. We don’t want to take a player who’s played 90 minutes on a Tuesday, flown back to Seattle and then try and get him out there for 15-20 minutes and risk injury.”
Seattle is three points behind second-place RSL in the Western Conference playoff race, with one game in hand.
Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning returned to training Monday and was declared ready for RSL. More questionable is defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who is being fitted for a mask to protect a facial fracture suffered last week against Portland. Hanauer spent part of last week at the Leaders in Football conference in London. He said Europe’s high level of interest in MLS surprised him. MLS commissioner Don Garber, Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson and Sporting Kansas City CEO Robb Heineman also attended.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org @donruiztntblog.thenewstribune.com/soccer