Some less-familiar players will be wearing those familiar Sounders FC and San Jose Earthquakes uniforms tonight when the clubs meet in an MLS match at Santa Clara, Calif.
San Jose’s Steven Lenhart (knee) and Alan Gordon (foot) are out with injuries, and on the back end, Earthquakes defenders Justin Morrow (USA) and Victor Bernardez (Honduras) are with their national teams, and Steven Beitashour is out due to sports hernia repair.
For Seattle, Eddie Johnson (USA) and Obafami Martins (Nigeria) are away on international duty.
Johnson came into the game at the 75th minute Friday as the United States took a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in blizzard-like conditions at Commerce City, Colo. The goal was scored by Clint Dempsey in the 16th minute.
Johnson will remain with the USA (1-1) through its Tuesday match at Mexico.
“We can’t change our style of play,” Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuani said. “We lose two really good players, but good players stayed back. Whatever team goes out (tonight, we) just have to play the way we play, believe in ourselves, and try to get a goal as we can because there are guys who can score on this team.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid listed several options to fill in at forward: Sammy Ochoa started alongside Johnson against Portland last weekend; Rookie Eriq Zavaleta played forward in a Reserve League match on Sunday; and midfielders Zakuani and Mauro Rosales are capable of moving to forward.
However, the prime candidate could be David Estrada, who ranked third on the team with five goals last season. He sat out the first two league games due to an ankle injury, but he played in the reserve match last weekend and trained during the week.
“It’s been difficult to sit ... up in the (Sounders’) suite (at CenturyLink),” Estrada said. “The team’s done well, and I think we’re going to have a really good team this year with the addition of Martins. And Ochoa’s been doing well when he’s been in there. It’s going to be a really good season.”
This would be an especially meaningful spot for Estrada to make his season debut, as he grew up in Salinas, Calif., less than an hour from the Earthquakes’ Buck Shaw Stadium.
“Obviously, going back home would be nice; see some family,” he said. “But at the end of the day it’s just about trying to get back into the swing of things, hopefully make the 18(-player game-day roster) and try to contribute to the team.”
Injuries can’t be avoided, but the absence of those five players to international duty comes at a particularly bad time.
“It’s good that the national team wants our guys,” Schmid said. “The timing right now isn’t good necessarily for us because we’re at the start of the season, we’re trying to find ourselves and we finally got the whole group together; so some training time would have been nice.
“But … we have to move on. It’s tough when you lose players all in the same area of the field – that makes it a little bit harder. But every team has to go through it to an extent, and we’ll go through it and we’ll get through it.”
Sounders FC announced the signings of defender Ashani Fairclough and midfielder Phllip Lund on Friday. Both had trained with the club through the preseason.
Fairclough, 20, played for the University of South Florida and had been captain of the 2007-08 Jamaican U17 national team.
Lund, 23, played four seasons in Denmark, most recently with FC Fyn of the second division.
The club also announced that defender Adam Johansson has been officially waived.
SOUNDERS FC (0-1-1; 1 POINT) AT SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (1-1-1; 3 POINTS)
7:30 p.m., Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
TV: Ch. 5. Radio: 97.3 FM.
Head to head: The Earthquakes swept 3-0 last season to take a 5-4-1 lead in the all-time series. Seattle is 1-2-1 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Notes: San Jose is the defending Supporters’ Shield winner; and forward Chris Wondolowski is the defending MVP and Golden Boot winner, who scored a MLS record-tying 27 goals last season. ... National team duty will leave Seattle without Eddie Johnson (USA), Obafemi Martins (Nigeria) and Mario Martinez (Honduras), while the Quakes will be without Justin Morrow (USA) and Victor Bernardez (Honduras). Injuries also will leave San Jose without forwards Alan Gordon and Steve Lenhart, while former Sounder Mike Fucito is questionable. Former Sounder Cordell Cato also plays for San Jose. ... The Quakes have surrendered the first goal in all three games this season. ... Both teams are coming off 1-1 draws: San Jose at Columbus and Seattle against Portland. ... This is the Sounders’ first MLS road match of the season, and it begins a stretch where five of six matches are played away from home. ... The referee is Baldomero Toledo.
Quotable: “They’re a team that works hard, that tries to move the ball, that tries to put a lot of pressure on you defensively, and through that kind of determination, create domination in the game.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid on the Quakes.
Next: The Sounders visit Real Salt Lake at 6 p.m. March 30.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 email@example.com/soccer