Help may have arrived Tuesday for a Seattle Sounders defense that has surrendered a club-record 46 goals this season — but not immediate help.
Defender Onyekachi Apam, signed in mid-September from the French first division, practiced with the club for the first time. And the consensus was that his top priority is getting back into game shape.
“We’ll probably establish a fitness regimen with him,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “There were some good things: At the beginning of practice, close in tight, you could see he’s got some good defensive tendencies, which is a good thing. He’s got good quickness, which is another thing we were looking for. It’s just a matter of making sure that we get him fit, get him up to speed, give him an opportunity where he can do well, and not put him into a situation too early.”
Schmid wouldn’t commit to a timetable. However, he said Apam would need at least two or three weeks in a regular season with only four weeks remaining.
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Apam himself believes he could be ready sooner.
“If I’m OK, why not?” he said. “I’m here to play. … I feel good. I was a little bit tired because of the travel and time difference, but in time I will be OK, adjust. … I have been training on my own.”
Apam hasn’t played competitively since May, and didn’t expect to have a new team this soon. However, the Sounders announced the signing Sept. 19, with 10 days passing before all of his international transfer papers were received.
Apam, 27, made 128 appearances in the French first division with Stade Rennes and OGC Nice. He also has 14 caps with the Nigerian national team, where he was a teammate of Sounders goal leader Obafemi Martins, who advised the team about Apam.
“He’s a good player,” Martins said. “When he’s fit, I think then we’ll see more of him.”
That can’t come too soon, as the Los Angeles Galaxy has pulled even with the Sounders in the race for Supporters Shield and top playoff seed in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, Seattle has allowed nine goals over its past three games — including two in the first 20 minutes of Saturday’s 4-2 win over Chivas USA. Through 30 games, the Sounders have allowed 46 goals, already topping the previous high of 42 from last season.
Schmid has stressed that the goals allowed statistic reflects on the entire team, not just the defenders. However, Seattle’s back line has stumbled this season, in part because of injuries to players such as outside backs Leo Gonzalez and Dylan Remick and central defenders such as Djimi Traore and Zach Scott.
There was good news about Scott on Tuesday, with Schmid saying that the injured ankle is a “bone-on-bone contusion” and not a break. Scott has gone from crutches to a boot, and was walking without even the boot Tuesday. Schmid said Scott’s status is day to day and didn’t rule him out of the Sounders’ match at Colorado on Sunday.
Seattle also will play an MLS Reserve League match Monday in Colorado, and Schmid said Apam could draw short minutes then.
Apam can play both inside and outside positions, but he said his favorite is right back.
That spot is now handled by All-Star DeAndre Yedlin. However, it could become a position of need next season, depending on Tottenham Hotspurs’ plans for Yedlin, who was acquired by transfer in August.
“Next season is next season,” Schmid said. “That’s still far away. But obviously you have things in the back of your mind, and that’s a position that we might have to find a steady player at as well.”
The Sounders went through light training Tuesday as they begin a closing stretch that doles out their final four games over the final four weekends of the regular season. … Schmid said the Sounders considered preparing for their 2015 season in Charleston, South Carolina, and even La Manga, Spain, before deciding on the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Arizona.