Sounders FC

Sounders have options to use against United

Seattle Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid has more players available to him this week than he has in a while.

That’s good for Schmid and for a team in the midst of playing three games in eight days. But it’s not so good news for the players who will lose their starting spots because of it.

“Sometimes it’s nice to have everybody, and sometimes it’s nice to not have difficult decisions,” veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “Now we’ve got three center backs who have been playing and someone is going to come up short on that and not be playing.

“Those are difficult things. Sometimes (with fewer options) everyone has that confidence that, ‘Hey, I’m going to be playing one way or the other.’ ”

When Eastern Conference leader D.C. United visits Qwest Field on Wednesday for a 7:30 kickoff that will be televised on ESPN2, Schmid will have access to three starters who were unavailable to him in the Sounders’ 2-1 win over San Jose on Saturday: forward Nate Jaqua, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, and defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.

If all three reclaim their starting spots, that would send to the bench three players who contributed to the Sounders’ breaking their six-game winless streak.

One of those players could be center midfielder Stephen King, who not only filled in for Alonso on Saturday but earned special praise from his coach.

“The other guy who I thought was very good tonight, that maybe a lot of people didn’t notice, was Stephen King,” Schmid volunteered after the game when asked about two other players. “I thought Stephen King covered tons of ground, acres of space, and he made one saving tackle … where he came back and covered back. He was forward, he was back. I thought he was very good.”

Despite the praise, King acknowledged after training Monday that he doesn’t yet know if he will remain among the starters.

“At this level you don’t always get to play the way you want to play or where you want to play, so you just have to do what’s best for the team,” he said. “… Obviously, we have a good group from top to bottom, so the coaches have a tough job picking who’s going to play.”

King, a native of New Jersey, was a two-time Hermann Trophy (national player of the year) semifinalist at the University of Maryland. He was a third-round pick by the Chicago Fire and started eight games as a rookie before going to Seattle in the expansion draft.

He has appeared in six games for the Sounders, and Saturday marked his second start.

“There are only 11 starters in each game, so a lot of guys aren’t,” he said. “I’ve been happy with how things have progressed here throughout the year. I feel like lately I’ve kind of come on a little bit and gained some confidence and hopefully going forward I can continue to get a good deal of starts here. That’s definitely my goal.”

Regardless of who starts Wednesday, the Sounders likely will try to take advantage of their depth over the next couple of weeks. They have another game coming up Saturday at New York. And they have a U.S. Open Cup game tentatively scheduled for June 30, just two days after a league game against Colorado.

“It’s good to have options to choose from, and healthy bodies to play, and sometimes just a matter of getting some fresh legs out there also,” Schmid said Monday. “So, all of those are good for us to have those options. And obviously with the injuries and everything else it’s given an opportunity for Patrick Ianni. It’s given an opportunity for Stephen King. It’s given an opportunity for Sebastien (Le Toux) to play up front, Tyson Wahl to play in the back. And certainly a lot of those guys have stepped up when they’ve got their chance.”

Added time

The USL Portland Timbers will play the Sonoma County Sol tonight in California. The winner of that game is the likely third-round opponent for the Sounders in U.S. Open Cup play. Pairings, dates and sites could be determined tonight. … Individual-game tickets for the Seattle-Barcelona match Aug. 5 at Qwest Field went on sale Monday. As of 4 p.m. Monday, more than 57,000 tickets had been sold, leaving about 10,000 available. Meanwhile, the club also announced that fewer than 2,000 tickets remain for the friendly against Chelsea on July 18.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

blogs.thenewstribune.com/soccer

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