After their 1-0 loss at San Jose on Saturday, the Seattle Sounders returned home Sunday — all but four of them, that is.
Forwards Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and defender DeAndre Yedlin headed to Portland, where they will begin training Monday for the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday at Providence Park. There they will join rookie forward Sean Okoli, who will play in the MLS Homegrown Game at 7 p.m. Monday.
“I’m excited to get the game in, and I’m excited to meet the home-grown players that I don’t know already,” Okoli said. “It’s going to be good seeing them. It’s going to be a good experience.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid sounded less certain about the value of the game, which will send the league’s top home-grown players against the Portland Timbers U-23s of the Premier Development League.
“I don’t completely understand it,” Schmid said. “I don’t know what purpose it serves, I guess is what I’m saying — unless they’re going to sell like 10,000 tickets for the homegrown game. Maybe that’s what they’re going to do. I think it’s great they showcase the home-growns and all that. But I’m not sure how much the game is really going to bring anybody.”
MLS won’t sell 10,000 tickets — or any, for that matter. Admission to the Homegrown Game is free, with tickets being distributed on the MLSsoccer.com website. The game also will be streamed live on the league website and through the WatchESPN app.
The game is meant to promote players who have come up through the MLS development system and team academies. That applies to players such as Okoli, who grew up in Federal Way, played at Todd Beamer High School, in the Sounders FC Academy, the Sounders U-23 PDL team, and Wake Forest before signing with Sounders FC in January.
In his first professional season, Okoli has played just 18 minutes over two MLS games. He also has played in five Reserve League games, and went the full 90 minutes in the U.S. Open Cup win over PSA Elite.
“You see those levels of performance that says ‘Yeah, this is why he’s here,’ ” Schmid said. “But then there are days when he’s not quite at that level. That’s something that he works on each day. My job as a coach is to get him on the field when he can be successful. If I put him on the field too early and he’s not going to be successful, then that’s not going to help him or me.”
Yedlin also had been named to the Homegrown Team but was replaced when he was voted onto the MLS team. So instead of playing against the Portland U-23s on Monday, he will face German power Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
“It’s definitely an honor to be put in a group with those kinds of players,” Yedlin said. “I’m excited. We’re playing against one of the best teams in the world.”
Like the other Sounders who will be part of the All-Star festivities this week, Yedlin also wondered what kind of reception he’ll get in Portland.
“I don’t guess they’re too happy that we have (four) players on the team,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we’re representing the league, so hopefully they’ll be excited for us. But ... there’s still going to be a little bit of hatred there.”
Seattle central defender Chad Marshall also had been named to the All-Star team. However, he was removed from the active roster over the weekend due to a back injury.