By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
After struggling through a third straight winless game Saturday, the Seattle Sounders suffered the loss of two starters on Sunday, as goals-leader Eddie Johnson and starting midfielder Brad Evans were called up to the United States national team.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann did not call Seattle designated player Clint Dempsey, who missed Seattle’s 5-1 loss at Colorado with a hamstring injury.
“Whenever you get a chance to wear the U.S. jersey it’s an honor and a privilege and it’s something you don’t want to take for granted,” Johnson said. “Myself and Brad Evans, it’s tough to leave our team here because at the start of the season we set goals as a team, and winning the Supporters Shield (is one of those) goals, and we’re in a race for it.”
The Sounders are 15-9-6 with four games left in their regular season. They are two points behind league-leading New York, and one behind Western Conference-leading Real Salt Lake, with two games in hand on each.
Seattle will begin making up some of those games with a Wednesday home date against Vancouver and a Sunday road match at Portland. Those games will influence the Supporters Shield, Western Conference and playoff races, and will decide the 2013 Cascade Cup.
“Those are the games we look forward to every year,” Johnson said. “But I know when I leave I’ve got to make sure if I’m leaving it’s going to be for a good cause. It’s one thing to get called into the national team; but if you’re going and you take it for granted and you’re not going to get anything out of it, you might as well not even go. I’m very blessed and very fortunate to have this opportunity again, and I’m going to make the most of it.”
Johnson and Evans were among 20 players Klinsmann called in for the USA’s Friday match against Jamaica at Kansas City, Kan., and Oct. 15 game at Panama. Those matches will conclude this qualifying round. The United States already has clinched its place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“We want to win those games,” Klinsmann told USsoccer.com. “We want to finish off the year on a high note. … These games already count toward the World Cup in 2014 in terms of the international competition and the mentality we are trying to build.”
Also selected for the U.S. team were goalkeepers Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton) and Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake); defenders DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana) and Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy); midfielders Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht) and Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City); and forwards Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) and Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar).
The Sounders return to training today, and coach Sigi Schmid is expected to update the health situation of players such as Dempsey, Obafemi Martins (hip), Steve Zakuani (groin), Djimi Traore (hamstring) and Leo Gonzalez (hip).
“I’m very confident my teammates here back in Seattle that they can get the job done in the two games that we miss,” Johnson said. “We’ve got Clint coming back from injury. Oba’s there. Steve Zakuani is still pushing for his fitness and stuff. So, we’ve got a strong team.”