It’s a friendly match between injury-weakened Seattle FC and jet-lagged and exhausted Celtic FC.
Still, approximately 50,000 fans are expected to show up at Qwest Field today to watch, along with an ESPN cable audience.
They can expect to see the Sounders debut of designated player Blaise Nkufo.
But it’s likely that the biggest draw is simply Celtic, the 34-time Scottish Cup-winning club from Glasgow formed in 1888.
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Manager Neil Lennon cautions there may plenty of unfamiliar players wearing those famous green-and-white hooped jerseys with the four-leaf clover crest.
“We’ll have a younger team because of the schedule we’ve had on the tour,” said Lennon, whose club lost to Manchester United on Friday in Toronto. “Predominantly, the first team played. So we brought a big enough squad to cover the four games in the 10 days. So, some of the younger guys who have not played yet will certainly get a run. But we’ve got some quality coming through. We want to develop our own players, obviously, and it will be a good experience for them to go and play.”
One of those younger players will be Celtic’s lone American: goalkeeper Dominic Cervi, who passed on an MLS career in favor of the chance to play overseas.
“It’s working out pretty well so far for me,” Cervi said Saturday after Celtic worked out at the Seahawks’ training facility in Renton. “Last year was a good learning experience. I didn’t really play as much as I would have hoped, but just getting the experience and being in the top flight in Scotland, it’s been a good experience.”
During his freshman year at the University of Tulsa, Cervi was a teammate of the Sounders’ No. 2 goalkeeper, Terry Boss.
Today, the former Golden Hurricanes will defend opposite goals as Boss is expected to start in place of Kasey Keller, who is recovering from a foot injury suffered in Seattle’s win Thursday at D.C. United.
“I had an MRI (Friday), and it just showed that it’s just a bad sprain,” Keller said Saturday. “So once I kind of have that in my head that I know it’s nothing more than just pain – there’s nothing wrong in there except for just a lot of inflammation – then the pain doesn’t bother me too much. It’s nice we don’t play until next weekend, so just take a couple of days and be back at training.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he also would rest forward Nate Jaqua (groin), and midfielders Michael Seamon (ankle) and Freddie Ljungberg (ankle), who has been given the weekend off.
However, Nkufo is expected to get his first playing time since joining the Sounders after his World Cup duties with the Swiss national team.
“(This) is a big game, and I want to play,” Nkufo said. “I think I’m going to start, and I’ll really enjoy to play finally and to make minutes to get back the feeling after the World Cup. ... I’ve (had) 15 days off. You have to rebuild physically and the conditioning. That’s normal. But I have 10 days before the (July 25 league match vs. Colorado), and I hope it should be enough.”
This will be Seattle’s seventh game in 21 days, while Celtic is still looking for its first win in a four-game, 10-day North American tour that so far has brought a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union and the 3-1 loss to Manchester United.
“You don’t just fly all this way to come lose,” Cervi said. “Who wants to do that? Yeah, we’re upset that we haven’t won, but at the same time it’s preseason and you’ve got to learn from something. You probably learn more from losing than winning. If there is a silver lining to losing, I guess that’s it.”