Sounders FC

Sounders shorthanded with 8 players away on international duty

Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey (2) is one of eight players who will be away from the squad during the international break. Dempsey has been called up by the U.S. squad for games Friday and Tuesday against Guatamala.
Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey (2) is one of eight players who will be away from the squad during the international break. Dempsey has been called up by the U.S. squad for games Friday and Tuesday against Guatamala. The Associated Press

A thinned version of Seattle Sounders FC continues working at Starfire Sports Complex this week while eight of its players are scattered across the hemisphere on international duty.

Forward Clint Dempsey is away with United States men’s national team. Forward Jordan Morris and goalkeeper Tyler Miller are with the U.S. U-23 team. Forward Victor Mansaray is with the U.S. U-20 team. Defender Joevin Jones is with Trinidad & Tobago. Forward Oalex Anderson and S2 forward Myron Samuel are with St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And central defender Roman Torres is away with the Panama national team, even though he is unable to play because of a knee injury that has kept him out of action since September.

That’s quite a list. However, the absences won’t have a direct impact on Seattle’s Major League Soccer season, as the Sounders are one of 14 clubs with a bye this week. Between the USA’s World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala on Friday and Tuesday, the only MLS matches will be New York City-New England, D.C. United-Dallas and Vancouver-Houston, all Saturday.

“Six teams are playing, but that’s a little more either by their choice or the league’s choice,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “But there are quite a few teams this year that had indicated they would want all of the international windows off as much as possible. … We asked for them all.”

Schmid explained that each season, MLS lists all the international competition dates and allows clubs to select the ones they’d like to have off. But it’s only a request and comes with no guarantee.

The Sounders get this weekend off, and again in early June and early October. However, they still could be shorthanded for their May 28 and June 1 dates at New England and D.C., in advance of a league-wide break for Copa America Centenario.

Schmid expressed some ambivalence even about having this weekend off. The Sounders have begun the season 0-3 and understand that the only way to get rid of that zero in the win column is by being on the pitch.

“I’d rather play right now because when you’re where we are right now, you want to get back out there,” Schmid said. “We want to show our fans what we think of them and what we think of their support by coming out with a performance and a win. So you want to be out there. But the schedule is the way it is, so we’re going to try and use this.”

The Sounders started competition earlier than most MLS teams because of CONCACAF Champions League, so Schmid said he would try to use this week to give some players time to recover physically and mentally. The team will train through Friday, then take three days off before returning Tuesday to resume preparations for their next league match, April 2 against the Montreal Impact at CenturyLink Field.

The international players are expected back by then, but they will return in various degrees of readiness due to travel and minutes played.

“Our guys are going to get a few days off over this period of time,” Schmid said. “But the guys who are gone on 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. So sometimes the difficulty when they come back is to find little snippets of time when you can give them a break.”

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