World Cup qualifiers impact Sounders-Salt Lake game
Injuries and World Cup qualifying matches will keep several key players out of tonight’s important Real Salt Lake-Sounders match.
Tuesday night in Kansas City, Sounders forward Eddie Johnson had a key assist for the United States in a 3-1 victory over Guatemala. Midfielder Mario Martinez (Honduras) and defender Adam Johansson (Sweden) were also involved in World Cup qualifiers.
RSL sent several players away for International competition, including its top goal scorer, Alvaro Saborio of Costa Rica. In a display of good sportsmanship, Salt Lake gave Johnson a seat on its private flight to Seattle along with U.S. teammates Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman.
Johnson played a ton of minutes for the American squad and might not have much left in the tank this evening. Seattle’s beat up back line is a bigger concern for coach Sigi Schmid.
“Jhon Kennedy Hurtado has a facial fracture, so he’s out. Leo Gonzalez is out with a hamstring injury,” Schmid told me in our Coach’s Corner interview. “Three of our four backs will be different against Salt Lake.”
Central defender Patrick Ianni was a possible starter but left Tuesday’s practice early on a cart. He had been recovering from an abductor injury.
All of this means Schmid will turn to veterans Marc Burch and Zach Scott for important work against a potent RSL attack. Scott has done well in previous matches against Salt Lake, including last year’s final MLS playoff game.
“I always want to play against the best players, and RSL fields a very solid team,” he said. “As we get near the playoffs, hopefully I can get a foot in the door and
show coach [Schmid] if the opportunity arises, I’m there and ready.”
With just two regular-season home games to go, the Sounders can pass Real Salt Lake for second place in the playoffs. Schmid doesn’t want his club to lose momentum or finish in the fourth spot.
“We’ve got one game in hand and we’re three points behind them [RSL], so getting a win tonight would be very important in our ability to move up and take second,” Schmid said. “That’s our objective, and we definitely want to be no worse than third.”
Matt Johnson fires up the pregame show at 6:30 this evening, with a 7 p.m. first kick. Ross Fletcher and Kasey Keller call the action on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.