The Seattle Sounders make their way to Chester, Pa. this week to face off against the Philadelphia Union. The game is Wednesday, June 24 at PPL Park at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet.
What you need to know:
The Seattle Sounders have been in the league for less than 10 years but already have one of the biggest soccer fan bases in the US. This is helped by the success that the team has found in a tough Western Conference, managing to win the U.S Open Cup four times since 2009 in addition to the Supporters Shield in 2014. They currently sit first in the Western Conference with 29 points from 16 games.
The team has been coached since its inception by Sigi Schmid, former UCLA, LA Galaxy and Columbus Crew SC head coach. Schmid is world-class coach, winning the MLS Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2008, and winning the MLS Cup with the Galaxy in 2002 and the Crew S.C. in 2008.
The Sounders are home to a host of veteran players who work together, held in line by team captain and US Men’s National Team captain Clint Dempsey. Partnered with Dempsey at the top in striker Obafemi Martins, one of the fastest and craftiest players in the MLS.
The team is anchored in the midfield by Osvaldo Alsonso, Lamar Neagle, and Marco Pappa. Alsonso is viewed as one of the top defensive midfielders in the league and has a penchant for being a tireless workhorse who makes hard tackles and challenges throughout the game. Neagle and Pappa play on opposite wings and are able to give Dempsey and Martins the service they need in the middle of the box.
The Sounders are without Dempsey for the next two games (including the game against the Union) as he serves a three game suspension for ripping up a referee’s notebook during the team’s Open Cup loss to the Portland Timbers on Tuesday.
Players to watch out for:
Obafemi Martins, Forward: Martins is a journeyman forward, having played in every major soccer league in Europe, including Serie A, the Barclays Premier League, La Liga, and the Bundesliga. Since joining the team in 2013, Martins has been an offensive powerhouse for them, scoring 17 goals and notching 13 assists in 31 games last year. So far in 2015, Martins has seven goals and four assists but will most likely miss the game against the Union due to a groin injury.
Stefan Frei, Goalkeeper: Frei is another veteran player that has found a home on the Sounders, playing the first four years or his career with Toronto FC. After being traded to the team after the 2013 season, Frei has gone on to start every MLS game since, including all 16 this year. He has allowed only 13 goals while putting up 59 saves, making his goals against average only .81.
Chad Marshall, Defender: Marshall is one of the most experienced players on the team, starting his playing career in 2004 with the Columbus Crew. Marshall was on the Crew during Sigi Schmid’s time at the club so it wasn’t a surprise when Schmid traded for him at the end of 2013. Marshall has won the MLS Defender of the Year trophy three times, in 2008, 2009, and 2014.
Goalkeeper: Stefan Frei
Defenders (left to right): Dylan Remick, Chad Marshall, Brad Evans, Tyrone Mears
Midfielders (left to right): Marco Pappa, Cristian Roldan, Andy Rose, Michael Ariza, Thomas
Forward: Lamar Neagle
Facts and figures:
The Union are 2-4-2 against the Seattle Sounders and 1-1-2 against the Sounders at PPL Park, including the loss in the US Open Cup finals last year. The Open Cup final was their last meeting and took place on September 16, 2014. The Union managed to play the Sounders into extra-time but ended up losing 3-1.
The Union are coming off a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the LA Galaxy on Saturday in California while the Sounders are coming off a 2-0 loss against the San Jose Earthquakes at home.
Contact Philadelphia Union writer Kyle Basedow at firstname.lastname@example.org.