For the first time in this Major League Soccer season, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid can’t fill out his lineup card with just one game in mind.
After playing no more than one game a week over the first six weeks of the MLS season, the Sounders’ match today at Chicago is the first of three in eight days and the first of five over 15 days.
So before Schmid settles on his lineup for tonight, he also has to figure who could be available for the home matches against Los Angeles on Wednesday and Philadelphia a week from today.
Fortunately for the coach, his club is getting healthier just in time for this busy stretch, as midfielder Mauro Rosales and defender Adam Johansson are expected to be available after missing four consecutive games.
“I think we probably have to have a little bit of rotation for our team, especially with Johansson and Rosales coming back from injuries, because they’re not going to be able to play a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday type of sequence of games,” Schmid said. “Same thing probably with Eddie Johnson. We have to look at our players and see what makes sense in terms of the rotation, but there will probably be some sort of rotation.”
Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning was limited most of the week with what were called flu-related issues. Schmid said he expects Gspurning – who is second in MLS with a 0.40 goal-against average – to be ready tonight.
Gspurning has been a constant in a Seattle defense that heads to Chicago with a streak of 248 minutes without giving up a goal.
“Our objective is always to have a clean sheet,” Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez said through a translator. “We do feel it as pressure because we realize that any time a team can come and score a goal on us. But going to Chicago, our objective is to keep them from getting a goal; and we know that we can do it if we maintain good communication and stay organized on the back.”
Chicago’s attack got off to a slow start this season, scoring three goals over the first four games. However, the Fire broke out last week with a 3-2 win at Toronto.
Leading scorer Dominic Oduro set the pace by scoring the opening goal a club-record 25 seconds into the match.
“They’re a good team in terms of the speed they present,” Schmid said. “(Patrick) Nyarko and Oduro definitely have speed and can put you on your heels that way. ... Oduro’s very confident right now, Nyarko has played very well, and (Sebastian) Grazzini is a talented playmaker. So, it’s a good team.”
The Sounders’ offense has gone the other way, scoring five goals over its first two league games, but only one in the three games since. Club career goals leader Fredy Montero is still looking for his first score.
“We haven’t gotten on track completely,” Schmid said. “It’s important that our defense has been able to keep us in games. When you take away the (penalty kick) that San Jose got, we would have walked out of that game with a tie, as well. Defensively, we’ve done a good job of keeping us in games while our offense gets on track. It would be nice to see both ends of it come together this weekend.”
SOUNDERS FC (3-1-1; 10 POINTS) AT CHICAGO FIRE (2-1-2; 8 POINTS)
5:30 p.m., Toyota Park; Bridgeview, Ill.
TV: KONG 6/16 RADIO: 97.3-FM
CLUB LEADERS: For Seattle – G 4, David Estrada; A 2, Alvaro Fernandez; S 24, Fredy Montero; SOG 7 Estrada and Montero; GAA 0.40, Michael Gspurning. For Chicago – G 3, Dominic Oduro; A 2, Sebastian Grazzini; S 16, Oduro; SOG, 11 Oduro; GAA 1.73, Sean Johnson.
HEAD TO HEAD: Sounders lead 3-0-3 overall, and 1-0-2 at Chicago. In league play last season, Seattle beat the Fire, 2-1, at home and drew on the road, 0-0. The Sounders also beat Chicago, 2-0, at home in the U.S. Open Cup final. This is the only scheduled meeting of the season.
NOTES: Seattle midfielder Mauro Rosales and defender Adam Johansson are expected to return after missing the past four games. Midfielder Alvaro Fernandez is expected to miss the game with a right quadriceps strain. Patrick Ianni (back) is questionable. ... Chicago is coming off a 3-2 win at Toronto last week. Seattle’s previous game was a 1-0 home win over Colorado on April 14. ... Both teams average 1.20 goals a game. ... Seattle enters the game with a 248-minute shutout streak, second longest in MLS. ... The Fire returns all 11 starters from its 2011 team, which went 9-9-16. ... Sounders coach Sigi Schmid was an assistant with the USA’s 1994 World Cup team, while Chicago coach Frank Klopas played on that squad. ... The referee will be Michael Kennedy.
QUOTABLE: “Maybe it gives you a little bit of a boost going into things. But ... they’re a better team than they were last year, for sure. They’re playing more confident. They’re scoring goals.” – Sounders midfielder Brad Evans on Seattle being unbeaten in six league games against the Fire.
NEXT: Los Angeles Galaxy, 7 p.m. Wednesday, CenturyLink Field.email@example.com 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer Twitter: @donruiztnt Don Ruiz, firstname.lastname@example.org