Seattle Sounders expect return of Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins, Mario Martinez to sharpen attack
With just one goal in three games, this week's comparison between the Seattle Sounders offense and a dull knife didn't seem far off.
Now that forward Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins are back in training – with Mario Martínez scheduled to join them soon – the whetstones have arrived.
“I think we’re a little bit sharper, maybe up to a serrated edge,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters on Thursday. “There’s a speed element that’s there with Eddie and Oba. With Mario, there’s shots from distance and service on set pieces that gets added and his passing ability. All of them are important pieces of the puzzle. At the moment we got to get everything sorted away and then give that group a little time to play together.”
A peek into what that might look like should come as soon as Saturday when the Sounders visit Real Salt Lake (9 pm ET, watch on MLS Live), and again next Tuesday, April 2, when they host Santos Laguna in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
Johnson and Martins should at least be available for both games, while Martínez will likely only play in one after featuring heavily in Honduras’ World Cup qualifiers, Schmid said. Martins is already in midseason form after playing two games a week with Spanish club Levante, Schmid explained, while Johnson played about 50 minutes in a pair of matches for the United States.
“We’re going to try and put out the best lineup for each game,” Schmid said. “Our guys, it’s early in the season and they know they don’t have a game the weekend after the Santos game and guys want to be on the field. It’s focus and concentration.”
Once those pieces come together, the Sounders are excited about the possibilities.
“I think it changes things for the opponents’ defense,” Schmid said. “I think they’ve got to be more aware. Do they want to play a high line? Do they want to take that risk? Do they drop off a bit more because they respect the speed?
“We’ve really got to see how the opponent reacts and that will show us what we can do. If they play a high line we can use the speed to our advantage. If they drop off because they don’t want to get exposed speed-wise then we have more space to play in front of them. I think we have enough quality to do that. So we can do whatever they give us. That’s always the key in soccer. You’ve got to be able to beat a team at what they give you. You’re not always going to be able to get the same thing every week.”