TUKWILA, Wash. — With the race for the Supporters’ Shield heading toward the home stretch and the CONCACAF Champions League group stage looming, Sounders FC have a dilemma creeping up. While Mauro Rosales, James Riley, Osvaldo Alonso, Kasey Keller and Fredy Montero don’t have to worry about their place in the first XI, the same can’t be said for the other six starters.
Despite early-season injures, Seattle’s depth has shone through during an impressive past couple months. And now Brad Evans, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and O’Brian White — all starters at the beginning of the year — are due back from injury soon, meaning a spot on the team sheet will be at a premium.
“It’s got to be like that,” said midfielder Erik Friberg, who has established himself as a starter in central midfield alongside Alonso in Evans’ absence. “There should be a couple of guys in every position that want to compete.”
That will be necessary as Seattle embark upon a six-match run in 18 days, starting this Saturday against Chivas USA. The success in the preliminary round of the Champions League will be reflected in the frequent flier accounts of the players, with three games in Central America added.
“We have so many games right now, so we need a lot of players,” Friberg said. “But I want to have my spot,” he added, laughing.
Lamar Neagle, who has played well in limited minutes, sees his path to the starting XI blocked by World Cup veteran Álvaro Fernández. Neagle, who scored the winning goal against Kansas City over the weekend, has started six matches in all competitions but is often used as a substitute in league games.
“We’re a deep team, so our reserve team has some of the starters from the beginning of the season,” Neagle said. “It’s tough, but it’s making us all better.”
Neagle mentioned that since Seattle’s tactical setup has been stable, it’s easy for different players to step in without the team missing a beat.
“It’s good. We need to be that because beginning with the game against Chivas, we have six difficult games in 18 days,” said head coach Sigi Schmid. “Having to play those amount of games, if we can go 17 to 18 players deep where we can make changes in our starting lineup and not impact our quality of play, that makes it a good thing for us.”
The Sounders’ depth is reflected in their record in the Reserve League. Heading into Tuesday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle held an unblemished 7-0-0 record.
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewWinnerMLS