Already reeling with a spate of injuries, particularly at goalkeeper, the Sounders received another blow Thursday when forward Eddie Johnson was called to the U.S. National Team for the knockout rounds of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Johnson will miss Saturday’s match with the Colorado Rapids so that he will be available Sunday for the USA match against El Salvador in Baltimore. Johnson could also miss Seattle’s July 28 match against Chivas USA should the U.S. advance to the Gold Cup final, also scheduled for July 28.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he spoke earlier this week with USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann about the possibility of recalling Johnson prior to Tuesday’s 1-0 win against Costa Rica.
“He had told me what he was thinking and I said think about it and call me after the game,” Schmid said. “Sure enough my phone rang after the game and we talked again.”
“It’s difficult when you’re in and out a lot of times, but it’s also a situation where you can’t really say no when the national team calls,” he added. “Theoretically, they have the right to bring him in.”
Lamar Neagle will replace Johnson at forward alongside Obafemi Martins. The Sounders are 3-0-0 when the duo plays together this season.
“It’s what I’m used to,” Neagle said. “My whole career I’ve been in and out of the lineup and on and off the bench — left-mid or right-mid — it’s kind of what I’m used to now.”
Johnson, 29, has 53 caps and 15 goals for the United States in his international career. He most recently scored for the U.S. in a 2-0 win over Panama in World Cup Qualifying June 11 in Seattle. Johnson’s last Gold Cup appearance came in 2007.
Not lost on Schmid was the disadvantage of surrendering a dynamic striker near the midpoint of the MLS regular season. He also expressed disappointment in what it means for Sounders fans. Seattle plays its next three games at CenturyLink Field. Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning will miss at least another game as he tries to recover from what Schmid labeled a “really bad sprained wrist — only higher up.”
“I feel sad for the fans because we haven’t really been able to put the group together for a sustained period of time,” Schmid said.
Meanwhile, the USMNT continues to rack up its own. Klinsmann’s surging group finished atop Group C with wins over Costa Rica, Cuba and Belize to advance to the quarterfinals. In the midst of a record eight-match winning streak, the U.S. is vying for a fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup championship and first since 2007.
The champion will qualify for a playoff match against the champion of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup to decide which country will represent CONCACAF in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Good news for the Sounders is that Osvaldo Alonso will not miss Saturday’s game against Colorado, or sustain a fine. Issued a red card last week during the San Jose match, Alonso had it rescinded when an independent review panel determined Alonso’s contact with Dan Gargan of the Earthquakes was “minimal.” Referee Sorin Stoica ruled “violent conduct” against Alonso during the match.
“I didn’t touch him,” Alonso said. “I walked away with my head up because I didn’t do anything. Fortunately we won the appeal.”
Last month, a red card issued to forward Obafemi Martins was also overturned.
“Hats off to the league in terms of acknowledging it,” Schmid said of the latter reversal. “It would have been very easy for them to say, ‘Hey.they’ve won one already. Maybe we don’t need to get them to win another one,’ but it’s a situation where we felt it was a legitimate challenge.”
“It’s even more important because we still have a bunch of guys injured,” he said. “Being able to have Ozzie back solidifies the middle of midfield.”