By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
For two months it has been like clockwork, as the Seattle Sounders’ first eight Major League Soccer matches have rolled out over eight consecutive Saturdays.
That number will grow to nine with today’s 7 p.m. match against Philadelphia at CenturyLink Field.
However, the run is about to end. And the effects could show up as early as the Union match, as coach Sigi Schmid weighs the immediate benefits of his first-choice lineup against the demands of three matches over the coming nine days.
“Playing Philly (today) and then coming back (against Dallas) on Wednesday is not so bad because Dallas has to play on the weekend as well,” Schmid said. “The following weekend when we play at New England is a little bit harder, because they don’t have a midweek game. So we’ve got to look at maybe where guys are with their legs and maybe rest some people.”
At the exact one-quarter mark of the season, three Sounders have been on the pitch for every minute: goalkeeper Stefan Frei, right back DeAndre Yedlin and central defender Chad Marshall. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and forward Obafemi Martins have started every match.
The Sounders seem to have little incentive to change much, as they are on a four-game unbeaten streak, including three straight wins that have moved them to the top of the MLS standings.
However, not everyone in Schmid’s first-choice 11 seems likely to be able to produce three effective games over nine days. So the Sounders may finally have to a chance to show off the depth that they believe is a strength of this club.
“There are certain rotations that are in our mind,” Schmid said. “You’ve got three games, so maybe you’ve got three guys for two positions, so maybe you’re saying in your mind you can get each guy two starts here. You sort of know which guys probably are going to have a difficult time getting back on the Wednesday after playing Saturday.”
Already this season, 16 different Sounders have started games. But those changes have been due to coach’s decision or injury. Now, an accumulation of minutes comes is about to come into the mix.
“This will be the first test,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “That midweek game is going to push the envelope. But we’ve got a number of (reserves) who are licking their chops. If guys don’t start who have been starting, they’re going to be ready to go and that provides a good atmosphere at training. There are guys who can push those three and get 90 minutes every game. But when you look at our style of play, some attacking guys are going to need a breather.”
Seattle’s reliance on those reserves seems likely to grow. Even once this three-game stretch ends, Schmid may need to reach deeper down his roster as Clint Dempsey, probably Evans, and perhaps Yedlin could depart for United States national team’s final training before the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
National team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has announced that he will call 30 players into training camp on May 13. Any Sounders making the 23-man roster for Brazil would then miss four league matches – starting with the May 17 home game against San Jose — and one or two U.S. Open Cup games. Those numbers would grow if the USA advances beyond World Cup group play.
Martins’ goal in the 4-1 win over Colorado was honored Friday as MLS goal of the week. Martins also won the award the previous week. … Sounders FC has confirmed that Darren Sawatzky has not been retained as the club’s director of youth development. However, he will remain coach and general manager of the Pierce County-based Sounders U-23 PDL club. … Sounders U-23 has announced a time change for its friendly against Western Washington University. The game has been moved back half an hour to 7:30 p.m. Monday at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner. … The Seattle Reign’s Kim Little was named NWSL player of the month after scoring four goals in April.