Sounders FC

Sounders starting lineup for Saturday forming — with Dempsey squarely in the fold

With Clint Dempsey all but getting the thumbs-up from coach Brian Schmetzer on Tuesday to start the Sounders’ season opener Saturday at Houston, this will be the lineup fans should get used to.

Except one position — right back.

With veteran Brad Evans (strained calf) out several weeks, and Oniel Fisher still in concussion protocol, that defensive position is a bit of a mess right now.

So much so, Gustav Svensson — who was signed a month ago out of Sweden — could be the starter against the Dynamo.

“It’s not really what I expected signing with the Sounders,” Svensson said. “But I am happy to help.”

You see, the 30-year-old Svensson sees himself as a central midfielder. He’s played much of his professional career in Sweden, Turkey, the Ukraine and China in that role.

But he has played as a defender — both as a central defender and on the flanks — as recently as two years ago.

“(The Sounders) asked if I could play there, and I said, ‘Of course,’ ” Svensson said. “I have been watching videos. But I also know how he wants to play. I know the system. I have been playing a lot of years, so I know what to expect.”

Svensson started at right back in the team’s final preseason match — a 1-0 loss Saturday to the Columbus Crew.

“Gustav ... would like to settle in at one position, and we’ll work on that throughout the course of the season,” Schmetzer said. “What I like is that he’s a team guy, and he would sacrifice parts of his game to help the team. That is the kind of player you want as a coach.”

Svensson said he has both the strength and fitness to play right back, which requires long sprints up and down the field.

“I can run for days,” he said.

But he can’t speak Spanish, which might be an issue in his communication with center back Ramon Torres.

“He speaks Spanish to me, and I speak Swedish to him,” Svensson said. “We’ll figure something out.”

Svensson said he likes to aggressively play the ball, adding if he gets space on the outside, he might dribble and show off a few “Messi” moves.

“It is not that different when you do the defense on the pitch,” Svensson said. “You have to think a little bit smarter doing it closer to your own goal.”

NOTES

When specifically asked about Dempsey’s starting status Saturday, Schmetzer’s exact response was this: “I would think there is a pretty high probability of that.” That said, the star might not play a full match yet. ... Forward Jordan Morris (ankle) is questionable to play Saturday. General manager Garth Lagerway reiterated Tuesday that the club would err on the side of caution with the three Sounders who were with the U.S. national team in January and February in getting them rest. ... Schmetzer said Fisher should be cleared in time for Saturday. ... Reserve midfielder Aaron Kovar (groin) will miss the season opener at Houston. ... The Sounders are No. 1 in MLSsoccer.com’s inaugural 2017 power rankings.

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