Scouting Report: Star Wars Edition
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..
...there was a Seattle Sounders team that battled the Philadelphia Union in the first ever game at PPL Park.
The Union went down early but ultimately prevailed, 3-1.
Now, Seattle returns: for Star Wars night.
(cue epic John Williams musical score)
Sigi Schmid brings his galactic empire to Chester this weekend, but he isn't looking to crush the rebel alliance, he's just looking for a win. The Sounders have struggled out of the gates en route to a 1-3-2 record and just 5 total points.
They're dead last in the Western Conference.
Truth be told, Seattle has dealt with a number of injuries, and a schedule skewed by participation in the CONCACAF Champion's League. They come to PPL Park following a bye week, which gives them quality time to recover and get healthy.
"It's a trap!" - Admiral Ackbar
Actually, it's not a trap. Seattle's strike corps looks good on paper. It just hasn't been portrayed at full-strength this year.
Eddie Johnson is back to full training after missing the last two matches with a hamstring issue. The American international has good speed and great scoring instincts. He struggled in England, then rediscovered his career only after returning home last season.
Obafemi Martins scored his first Sounders goal in the recent 1-0 win at Colorado. He's a dynamic striker with a great pedigree: Internazionale, Newcastle, Wolfsburg, Rubin Kazan, and Levante. Martin's injury issues are related to his knee, but he's certainly likely to feature on Saturday.
David Estrada is also a bit banged up, but Seattle has gotten some decent minutes from Lamar Neagle, who rejoined the club from Montreal this offseason. Sammy Ochoa is another forward option.
The wings are solid as well, almost like a well-oiled squadron of TIE fighters buzzing around the field (or galaxy if we are sticking with the theme).
Steve Zakuani has made a nice return from a broken leg and figures into Schmid's starting XI. Veteran Brad Evans has played mostly on the right side this season but can fit in basically anywhere in the midfield. Mario Martinez is another solid wide player with a good left foot.
Centrally, the Sounders added former New England all-star Shalrie Joseph, who somewhat resembles Jabba the Hutt's lieutenant, Bib Fortuna.
Maybe it's the hair...
Anyway, he's a great player. He's been a great player for some time. He's lost a step at age 34, but can still boss a midfield when he's on his game.
Osvaldo Alonso is the pick of the bunch, a two-way midfielder who destroys opposing attacks just like the Death Star destroys planets. He's among the best in the league at what he does – snuffing out movements and dictating play in front of the back four.
Former captain Mauro Rosales has been used mostly off the bench this year. He's good with a light saber, and he's also pretty good at hitting crosses from the flanks and distributing to the forwards. Andy Rose and Alex Caskey are quality options as well.
"The force is with you, young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet." - Darth Vader
Darth might have actually been talking about Deandre Yedlin with that quote. The 19-year-old rookie (not wookiee) right back has done very well this year, earning himself a starting spot following the departure of Adam Johansson. He's a capable defender and attacker at the same time, with a great haircut to boot.
Jeff Parke defected from Seattle in the offseason to join the light side of the force (Philadelphia). Couple that with an injury to Patrick Ianni and you've got a shuffle in central defense. Djimi Traore and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado are the expected starters this weekend. You might remember Traore from Liverpool's 2005 UEFA Champions League winning team. He played left back on that squad.
Veteran Costa Rica international Leo Gonzalez is your starting LB for Seattle. Look for defensive depth in Zach Scott and Marc Burch.
And you can't forget about Michael Gspurning in goal. Standing six-foot-five, it's almost like parking a star destroyer in front of your net.
Possible Starting XI: Gspurning (GK), Yedlin, Traore, Hurtado, Gonzalez, Zakuani, Alonso, Joseph, Evans, Martins, Johnson
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org