BY Andrew Harvey 04:46PM 03/24/2016

Sounders limited by absences during bye week

With six players away for international duty, the remaining Sounders are limited in the improvements they can make to overcome their sluggish start to the season.

With Clint Dempsey off saluting the flag rather than the crowd, the Sounders are limited in what practices can accomplish. / Dan Poss,  Sounders FC

With six major players away on international duty, the Seattle Sounders practices at the Starfire Sports complex in Tukwila have looked depleted. Coach Sigi Schmid is doing his best to keep the team from falling idle, but improvements to team chemistry will have to wait.

Several major contributors are absent. Clint Dempsey was called to the 26-man roster for the USMNT senior team for a two-legged World Cup qualifier against Guatemala, while rookie starting forward Jordan Morris is with the U23s for the Olympic qualifying playoff. Trinidadian left back Joevin Jones, who will play against backup forward Oalex Anderson’s St. Vincent and the Grenadines Friday, marks the other absent starter.

The Sounders, meanwhile, are still putting pieces together after the first 0-3 start in franchise history, leaving them at the bottom of the MLS standings. Seattle has been unlucky defensively in its first three matches, but has failed to generate consistent scoring chances despite commanding the majority of play.

“We’re working with the guys who are here on quicker play and being better in the final third,” Schmid said Wednesday. “There are a lot of guys (here) who still need to work so we just concentrate on the guys who are here and the work we can do with them.”

The Sounders bolstered their numbers with the acquisition of 33-year-old veteran forward Herculez Gomez Thursday. Gomez, who had been training with the team for several weeks, made seven appearances with Toronto FC last season, scoring one goal. His addition will add veteran depth to the forward unit, but Seattle’s midfield still lacks proven depth.

Schmid, meanwhile, will have a different challenge to contend with when his roster grows at the close of the international break next week. Players returning from national team duty are often at a greater risk of injury.

“The guys who are gone in the international break, they’ve got to ratchet their game up and now they’re under more, not only physical pressure, but psychological pressure as well,” said Schmid. “Sometimes the difficulty when they come back is to find little snippets of time where you can give them a break.”

Still, the side effects of time with a national team can produce tangible benefits. Schmid said that players who enjoyed success while away from the club often brought a higher level of play back with them.

That will certainly be the hope for the Sounders, who aren’t at thumb-twiddling levels of inactivity, but will be hard-pressed to get their roster back in one piece and make any significant game-plan changes ahead of their match against the Montreal Impact April 2 (7 p.m., Q13FOX).


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