By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he will field “a close approximation” of his first-choice starting lineup Saturday when Seattle plays its final match before the start of the Major League Soccer regular season.
Unfortunately for Schmid, that’s also all he’ll be able to field in the March 8 opener against Sporting Kansas City because designated player Clint Dempsey has been called in for the United States national team’s friendly against the Ukraine on Wednesday in Cyprus.
Dempsey, who is down to his final match while on loan with Fulham of the English Premier League, is one of only two MLS players on USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s 24-man roster.
However, Schmid noted, that Dempsey is the only player likely to miss an MLS match because of it. The other MLS call in — Michael Bradley — plays for Toronto FC, which has an opening-week bye.
Dempsey is expected back in Seattle on Thursday, however Schmid all but ruled out rushing him back into league play two days later.
“That’s a full day worth of flying from Cyprus to get back,” Schmid said. “We’ve got to see how he feels, you know; because the one thing that we don’t want to do is overload him and get him injured, because we’ve got a lot of games after the first game of the year.”
Klinsmann loaded the rest of his roster with players in overseas leagues: goalkeeper Cody Cropper (Southampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton); defenders John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Oguchi Onyewu (Sheffield Wednesday), Will Packwood (Birmingham City), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers); midfielders Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Barnsley), Danny Williams (Reading); and forwards Juan Agudelo (Utrecht), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar).
Meanwhile, the Sounders went through a light but upbeat workout in Charleston, preparing for their match against D.C. United at 2 p.m. Saturday. That game will determine the winner of the Carolina Challenge Cup while also offering the Sounders a final dress rehearsal before the start of their sixth MLS season.
“We’ve got to put our lineup together for the game on Saturday with an eye towards getting our minutes together, looking at what the starting lineup’s going to be,” Schmid said. “(We also) want to be sure that we go into the (MLS opener) as healthy as possible. We want to be fresh going into the game; we don’t want to be tired coming out of the preseason.”
Schmid has rotated goalkeepers Stefan Frei and Marcus Hahnemann throughout camp, and along the back line he has mixed and matched newcomers such as Chad Marshall and Jalil Anibaba with holdovers such as Djimi Traore and Zach Scott.
Schmid also mentioned forward Sean Okoli and defender Dylan Remick as young players who have made moves during camp.
Also hoping to play their way up the depth chart are newly acquired veterans such as forwards Chad Barrett from New England, Cam Weaver from Houston and Tristan Bowen from Chivas USA, along with rookie Damion Lowe, a defender from Hartford who was the eighth overall pick in the 2014 SuperDraft.
Schmid implied some of those lineup questions could come clearer Saturday, while not quite being the final word on the matter.
“There’s a lot of things to it,” he said. “… It will probably be a close approximation, but it might not be the perfect end product.”
The Sounders announced Thursday that their July 19 friendly against Tottenham Hotspur will kick off at 1 p.m. at CenturyLink Field and will be nationally televised on ESPN2. … Schmid said the Sounders still want to arrange a training friendly with a local college team for Saturday before the Challenge Cup match.