New signee Clint Dempsey won’t play the full 90, but he will see his first action as a Sounder Saturday. It just won’t be in this country. The Sounders meet the Reds in Toronto.
MATCH: Seattle Sounders FC (9-7-4, 31 points, 7th, MLS West) at Toronto FC (4-10-8, 20 points, 9th, MLS East. TYPE: MLS. WHEN: Saturday, 4 p.m, BMO Field. MEETING: 7th (Sounders lead 5-1-1). TV: KONG. RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM; SPANISH: KOMO2 (Comcast Ch. 114) and La Gran D 99.3 FM.
Head coach Sigi Schmid only hinted at how much Clint Dempsey will play Saturday in Toronto, but the Sounders have already started to realize a return on the $41 million investment they made in the 30-year-old Texan. Within hours of his signing earlier this week, the Sounders generated an additional 6,000 ticket sales for their next home match, Aug. 25 vs. Portland.
With that, the Sounders are expected to exceed the 66,452 that they drew for the Timbers Oct. 7, 2012. If so, it will rank as the second-largest crowd ever for an MLS game. A crowd of 69,225 saw a match between the L.A. Galaxy and the NY/NJ Metrostars in 1996. The anticipation is a sellout of the Clink’s capacity at 72,000.
Before the Sounders can stage a welcome party, they have to play two road matches, starting in Toronto Saturday. Dempsey will bring quite a portfolio to the match:
While the Sounders are riding a nine-match (6-0-3) unbeaten run at CenturyLink Field (no losses since the home opener March 2), they have struggled away from home, going 3-6-1 with a -7 goal differential. The Sounders have lost the past three road games.
“It has to be a thing where it becomes a theme,” said defender Brad Evans. “Not just nine games unbeaten and we take it for granted. It has to be something that carries on. That’s something that other teams recognize.”
Toronto is riding a three-match unbeaten run, including two straight victories.
The Sounders have the most matches remaining (14) of any MLS team. Nine are against Western Conference foes, with all but one of those teams currently ahead of the Sounders in the standings.
“I think everybody realizes that we have the potential to get to the playoffs – that’s where we need to get to,” said Schmid. “We need to put ourselves in a good position and then make noise. Last year, the two fifth-place teams ended up playing for MLS Cup. We are, point-wise, not in the playoff picture. When you look at points per game, we’re pretty close.”
That’s part of what prompted the signing of Dempsey.
“The likelihood of him (Dempsey ) going 90 minutes Saturday is very small,” said Schmid. “Whether that’s starting and coming off or coming on as a sub, we’ll have to see.”
The match will be the lone meeting of the season between the sides, and Seattle enters it with four straight wins against the Reds. Seattle is expected to start Marcus Hahnemann in goal, as Michael Gspurning is still healing a sprained forearm.
Led by first-year manager Ryan Nelson, Toronto is eighth in the Eastern Conference with 20 points (4-10-8). Toronto has struggled at home, going 2-3-6 with a -1 goal differential (14/15), but is unbeaten in the past three (1-0-2) at BMO Field.
Despite the addition of English Premier League veteran Robert Earnshaw, the club has sputtered offensively, ranking near the bottom of the league in goals (17th), assists (18th), shots (19th) and shots on goal (17th).
Earnshaw leads with six goals, despite not playing the last three games because of injury, while Bobby Convey and Jeremy Brockie have three assists apiece. Goalkeeper Joseph Bendik has played all 22 games and is just outside the top 10 with a 1.32 goals against average. The Reds have yet to win a game against a Western Conference side (0-5-2) this season.
The Sounders have not made an official announcement, but Sports Illustrated reported that Eddie Johnson and Evans will be called away from the Sounders Wednesday for the USA-Bosnia road friendly. Dempsey will apparently not join the U.S. team for the match.
With the friendly scheduled for Eastern Europe, it’s hard to tell how this will impact Seattle’s situation for the road match next Saturday Houston.
“I’ve said to Jurgen (U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann) he’s making my job harder trying to get into the playoffs if he keeps grabbing players from me,” Schmid said this week. “But it is what it is. I’d rather have players of that quality than not have players of that quality, but there are certain sacrifices you’ve got to make along with that.”
SOUNDERS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Marcus Hahnemann. Defenders — DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez. Midfielders — Osvaldo Alonso, Lamar Neagle, Brad Evans, Mauro Rosales. Forwards — Obafemi Martins, Eddie Johnson.
TORONTO FC PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Joseph Bendik. Defenders — Richard Eckersley, Steven Caldwell, Gale Agbossoumonde, Astone Morgan. Midfielders — Jonathan Osorio, Jeremy Hall, Matias Laba, Bobby Convey. Forwards — Justin Braun, Jeremy Brockie.
INJURIES: Seattle — Out, MF Alex Caskey (right ankle impingement), GK Josh Ford (right patella fracture), GK Michael Gspurning (left forearm sprain), MF Shalrie Joseph (right calf strain), MF Philip Lund (right plantar fasciitis), MF Steve Zakuani (sports hernia surgery). Toronto FC — Out, None. SUSPENSIONS: Seattle — None. Toronto FC — None. INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Seattle — None; Toronto FC — None.
SERIES: Dates to April 4, 2009, when the Sounders won 2-0 at Toronto in a match that featured goals by Freddie Ljungberg and Steve Zakuani. Seattle has outscored Toronto by an aggregate of 12-5. In the most recent match, March 17, 2012, David Estrada recorded his first career hat trick as the Sounders won their 2012 season opener 3-1.
SOUNDERS STATS / NOTES
SOUNDERS MLS LEADERS
|Starts||Traore 18, Gonzalez 18, Gspurning 17|
|Goals||Martins 7, Neagle 5, Johnson 5|
|Assists||Rosales 5, Evans 4, Martins 3, Neagle 3|
|Shots||Johnson 31, Neagle 29, Martins 28|
|Shots On Goal||Johnson 16, Neagle 14, Martins 12|
|Fouls Caused||Neagle 28, Alonso 26, Carrasco 22|
|Fouls Suffered||Johnson 28, Rosales 23, Alonso 21|
|Offsides||Johnson 25, Neagle 7, Evans 7|
|Corner Kicks||Rosales 55, Martinez 17|
|Cautions||Johnson 5, Traore 4, Hurtado 4|
|Ejections||6 tied with 1 each|
COMING UP: The Sounders are on the road for two of the next three matches. They visit the Houston Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium for the first time Aug. 17 and will conclude the month with a visit to the Columbus Crew Aug. 31. Seattle hosts the Portland Timbers in the next home match Aug. 25.
Seattle Sounders FC 2013 Schedule / Results
(9-7-4, 31 points, MLS; 1-1-0 CCL; 0-1-0 U.S. Open Cup)
|3/6||*at Tigres||7:00||Fox Soccer||L||1-0||0-0-0|
|3/23||^at San Jose||7:30||KING 5||L||1-0||0-2-1|
|5/26||^at LA Galaxy||8:00||ESPN2||L||4-0||4-4-3|
|7/13||^at San Jose||7:30||KING||L||1-0||7-7-3|
|9/21||^at LA Galaxy||7:30||NBCSN||—||—||—|
|10/19||^at FC Dallas||1:00||NBCSN||—||—||—|
*=CONCACAF; ^=Major League Soccer; #=U.S. Open Cup