TUKWILA, Wash. – Three national team starters returned to Seattle Sounders training on Thursday facing relative levels of uncertainty.
In the case of Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson there are questions about what roles they’ll play for the Sounders. Both started, scored and played significant minutes for the United States during their 3-0-0 run that put the team atop the Hex standings, but they did so while playing different positions than they normally fill on the club level.
Despite Johnson, Evans and Mario Martinez logging significant minutes while they were away with their respective national teams, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said he expected them to at least be available for Saturday’s game at Real Salt Lake (9:30 pm ET, watch FREE on MLS Stream of the Week).
“It’s just a matter of how we intend to use them,” he said.
If they start, Evans and Johnson could very well be playing different positions than the ones they were in the last time they suited up for the Sounders.
Evans is coming off four straight starts at right back with the U.S., including a trio of World Cup qualifiers in which the defense allowed just one goal. Normal Sounders right back DeAndre Yedlin is currently away with the US U-20 World Cup team.
“Maybe it opened my eyes that I can play at that level,” Evans said about his national team experience, the first time he’s played in World Cup qualifiers. “I’m still learning. That’s probably my fifth time with the national team, starting in that position, seventh or eighth even playing it. There’s still time to learn and adjust.”
The same could be said for Johnson, who was deployed as a wide midfielder in both of his qualifying starts despite being one of the top forwards in MLS. Johnson said he enjoyed playing in the midfield, as it afforded him more opportunities to run at defenders instead of playing with his back to the goal.
“Whatever my role is, the team has been playing well and it’s all about being on the right page,” Johnson said. “Our team has formed a lot of chemistry and been doing well since we’ve been away so it’s coming off the bench or starting, whatever my role is I’m going to give my best. Our two strikers are hot right now and you don’t want to interrupt that rhythm.”
The uncertainty facing Martinez is different. Saturday’s game against Real Salt Lake would potentially be the last time the Sounders have a chance to see him in action before his loan from Honduras’ Real España is due to expire at the end of the month.
“The truth is I’m not sure if I’m going to stay here or not,” Martinez said through an interpreter. “Personally I would like to stay here for a long time. The team has treated me real well. I’m happy with the fans, with the people. But at the end I’m not the one who decides.”