By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
For a while, playing goalkeeper for the Seattle Sounders seemed to have become about as dangerous as commercial fishing in the North Atlantic.
The cycle of injuries started with Terry Boss’ retirement during the off-season due to concussions. And it continued with long-term injuries to starter Michael Gspurning (hip), and reserves Andrew Weber (first ankle, now groin) and Josh Ford (knee).
Finally, the situation is improving. Ford came off the disabled list last week. Weber is about to rejoin the competition. And on Thursday, coach Sigi Schmid said Gspurning will travel for the match Sunday at New York.
“We want him to continue to train,” Schmid said. “He looked good (Thursday). He’s pretty sharp. We wanted to keep him in a team situation, so we’ll see. We’ll make a decision when we’re in New York as to what his role will be.”
Gspurning hasn’t appeared in a game since May 2 when a right hip strain forced him out at halftime of the shutout win against Los Angeles.
Now, he said he feels ready to return.
“I’m just happy to be on this trip,” he said. “… I totally trust (Schmid). I speak with him, of course. I tell him I’m ready, I want to help the team, for sure.”
Gspurning said he underestimated the seriousness of his injury at the time it occurred.
“I thought it’s nothing special: ‘OK, maybe a muscle injury, and I’ll be back in two or three weeks,’” he said. “And now it’s been eight weeks, I think. … As more I talk to the doctors, more I understand this injury isn’t an easy one. So, the toughest part is to (understand), yeah, it will heal, but you have to rest.”
His return comes soon after that of Ford, who was on the disabled list from May 4 to July 3 due to a right knee stress fracture.
“Having an injury like that was definitely a test,” Ford said. “Just being mentally strong was definitely important, and having the support of my teammates and the coaching staff. Taking that chunk out was a good but hard lesson. I feel like everyone has setbacks, so I’m just going to keep moving on.”
Next week, all four keepers are expected to be available.
When healthy, Gspurning is the unquestioned starter. He was brought in to replace the retired Kasey Keller and made a quick conversion from Super League Greece to MLS, compiling a 0.46 goals-against average through the seven appearances before his injury.
The club went 5-1-1 in the league matches he started and has gone 3-4-5 without him.
“You look at our goals-against at the beginning of the season when he was in goal,” Schmid said. “He was a big part of that — not the only part of it, it was a group effort. But certainly his leadership is important for us on the field. … He’s a guy that’s pretty positive; he’s funny, but he’s also serious about what it takes to win on that given day. So, he helps us in a lot of ways.”
There will be considerable competition behind Gspurning, as Weber and Ford join Bryan Meredith, who has allowed 14 goals in 14 games through all competitions, including nine MLS starts.
“I told the guys, it looks like we’re going to have four healthy guys training next week, and it’s up to them who plays,” goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra said. “I’ll train them as hard as I can and work with all their little things they need to work with, but it’s up to them who plays. When Mike comes back, there’s going to be some tough decisions.”
The Sounders report that 49,000 tickets have been distributed for their against Chelsea FC on Wednesday at CenturyLink Field. … Sounders U-23 will open the Premier Development League playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, meeting Washington Crossfire FC at Franklin Pierce Stadium. The teams played twice during the regular season, with the Sounders winning both by a combined 3-0.