The cavalry may finally be charging over the hill to rescue Seattle Sounders FC.
The club is off to a franchise-worst 0-2-1 start in Major League Soccer and has tumbled to last in the Western Conference, all while being unable to field a first-choice lineup because of injuries and international duty.
That could change this week as the international players return, midfielder Shalrie Joseph appears ready to make his Sounders debut and midfielder/defender Brad Evans has returned to health.
“Obviously, they help,” coach Sigi Schmid said Monday. “Shalrie sees the field really, really well. Brad’s a veteran player in this league who also has found ways to score goals over the years . So, those two guys are guys that will help because they help move the ball forward.”
Meanwhile, designated player Obafemi Martins (Nigeria) is expected back in Seattle today, while the international obligations of forward Eddie Johnson (USA) and Mario Martinez (Honduras) will conclude with World Cup qualifiers tonight.
However, Schmid stopped short of committing to using any of them Saturday when the Sounders return to MLS play at Real Salt Lake. He said he will wait to see how Joseph and Evans feel. And he sounded cautious about rushing the others back from international duty.
“We’ve got to wait for the games (tonight) and see how many minutes people play, make sure they come through injury-free,” Schmid said. “Obafemi hasn’t really trained with us yet — flew over here, flew over there, flew back over here now — so we’ve got to just see how he is physically. To try and rush somebody up because we’re panicking or something because, well, we haven’t gotten a win yet, and then have him suffer an injury that takes him out for a long period of time makes no sense.”
For their parts, Joseph and Evans each trained Monday and then sounded upbeat that their calf injuries have healed enough to allow them back on the pitch.
“I can’t explain it in words how excited I am to get out there and wear that No. 21 on my back and represent these colors,” Joseph said. “They take the chance on me, and I just want to repay that favor. It’s a week of practice: I’m looking forward to that Salt Lake game and just keep moving forward.”
If Evans returns Saturday, the next question might be what position he plays. The appearance of Joseph and the return of Martinez would boost the midfield to full strength, and that had Schmid hinting Evans might shift to right back. However, the play of rookie DeAndre Yedlin there has been one of the encouraging stories of a so-far disappointing season.
“Somebody’s going to get left out, and it’s a quality player, and that’s the name of the game,” Evans said. “If we want to push forward we’ve still got to battle, and whoever (is left out), you still put your head down and work. Somebody’s going to be either having a little injury or they’ve played a number of games and you want to give them a break, things like that. So guys will find their way onto the field.”
Yedlin is expected to be called into camp for the United States U-20 team in advance of the FIFA U-20 World Cup this summer. “I think every player dreams of playing in a World Cup, whether it be the U-20s, the U-17s or the full team,” Yedlin said Monday. “It’s definitely been a goal of mine, and if that opportunity happens for me it would be exciting.” Chivas USA forward Juan Agudelo was voted MLS player of the week after recording a goal and an assist in the Goats’ 4-1 win at Chicago on Sunday.