Personnel changes are nothing new for Seattle Sounders FC, which has used 31 lineups in 32 MLS regular-season games.
Still, the first 11 that coach Sigi Schmid started Sunday in Seattle’s 1-0 loss at Portland stood out.
The biggest move was writing goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann into the lineup ahead of healthy two-year starter Michael Gspurning.
Schmid also reached deep down his roster to give midfielder Alex Caskey his first start since June 18. Defender Patrick Ianni started at center back for the first time since Aug. 17, because of a combination of injury and coach’s decision. Clint Dempsey returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Aug. 31, ending a seven-game absence because of injury and international duty. And defender Leo Gonzalez returned at left back after a three-game absence because of a hip injury.
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The result was a third straight loss, though Schmid saw improvement over the preceding 4-1 loss to Vancouver and the 5-1 loss at Colorado that started the slide.
“It’s a game we have to build off of,” he said. “Over 90 minutes, when you look at chances created, I thought we created the better chances. We showed character and determination.”
The Sounders’ next opportunity to turn improvement into much-needed points will come Saturday at FC Dallas.
Schmid did not commit to keeping Hahnemann in goal for that one, even as he expressed satisfaction with the veteran goalkeeper’s effort, which included two saves and one goal allowed.
“We just felt with Michael, it was just a situation that sometimes you just got to step back and view it from the outside,” Schmid said. “I thought Marcus did well. I didn’t think Marcus had a lot to do. I can’t remember a real difficult save that he had to make over the 90 minutes.”
Schmid also seemed positive about his other additions.
“I thought Caskey played well,” he said. “I thought Leo was solid; I thought he contained his man pretty well. I didn’t think (forward Jose Adolfo) Valencia got a lot off Leo. He helps us. And I thought Caskey looked like the Caskey of last year — it shows how bad his ankle has been bothering him. So finally his ankle is feeling better, but I thought he played all right.”
The Sounders will have to alter their lineup again this weekend in Texas, because midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is out after picking up a straight red card at Portland. Meanwhile, defender Zach Scott is eligible to return after missing two games because of a disciplinary suspension. And midfielder/defender Brad Evans is expected back after U.S. national team duty concludes World Cup qualifying Tuesday in Panama.
There also could be a key subtraction after Dempsey suffered a shoulder sprain in Portland. The status of forwards Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins was unknown after each sat out the match with the Timbers with groin injuries.
In MLS Reserve League play, the Sounders took a 4-1 win at Portland on Monday. Seattle goals came from David Estrada, Mike Azira, Andy Rose and Cody Crook. The Reserves completed their season 4-6-2. Vancouver forward Kekuta Manneh was voted MLS player of the week after recording a hat trick in the Whitecaps’ 4-1 win at Seattle on Wednesday. The Sounders return to work Wednesday with the first of two local training sessions before taking a flight to Texas on Thursday afternoon.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer