Seattle Sounders FC forwards Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins trained together for the first time Thursday, and they appear on schedule to start together for the first time Saturday at Real Salt Lake.
Then, coach Sigi Schmid figures it’s up to RSL to figure out how to deal with all that speed up front.
“If they play a high line, then we can use the speed to our advantage,” Schmid said. “If they drop off because they don’t want to get exposed speed-wise, then we’ve got more space to play in front of them. I think we’ve got enough quality to do that as well. So, we can do whatever they give us.”
Johnson and Martins played together for the final 20 minutes of the Sounders’ 1-1 draw with Portland on March 16 – the day after Martins was signed and before he had a chance to train with his new teammates. They even nearly connected on a Martins pass across the goal box. However, each then left to join their respective national teams.
Martins played 60 minutes Saturday in Nigeria’s 1-1 draw against Kenya. He said his playing status this weekend is up to Schmid.
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “And I play my best to help the team.”
Johnson came on as a second-half substitute in Team USA’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica in snowy Commerce City, Colo., last week and in their scoreless draw at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on Tuesday.
“I prefer the snow than the rain, I’ll tell you that much,” Johnson said. “It was a difficult condition, but an enjoyable one at the same time. We were able to get a good result at home in front of our fans (in Colorado). In Azteca, it’s never easy playing there with the altitude and playing a good team like Mexico.”
Martins returned to Seattle on Tuesday, Johnson on Wednesday, and they finally trained together Thursday at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
“One of my things (Thursday) was as quickly as we can, and in as short a time span, is trying to connect; getting an understanding with him where he likes to move, and trying to complement his movement on the field,” Johnson said. “I thought we moved off each other really well. We combined with each other really well. I’m excited.”
Midfielder Mario Martinez, who also had been absent because of international duty with Honduras, didn’t make it back in time for training Thursday but was reported en route. Schmid indicated that the heavy minutes Martinez played in two World Cup qualifiers make him more likely for the Sounders’ CONCACAF Champions League semifinal match Tuesday against Santos Laguna than for their MLS match this weekend.
However, Schmid said midfielder Shalrie Joseph (calf) and midfielder/defender Brad Evans (calf) may be ready to play in both games, along with Martins and Johnson.
“We’re obviously a lot closer to a full squad right now,” Schmid said. “We’re going to try to put the best lineup out for each game. Our guys – it’s early in the season – they know they don’t have a game the weekend after the Santos game. Guys want to be on the field.”
Seattle’s MLS Reserve League match, scheduled for Sunday at Real Salt Lake, has been postponed to accommodate CCL preparation. The new date has not been announced. The Sounders return to training today at Starfire before flying out to Salt Lake City this afternoon.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer