SEATTLE — All season, the Seattle Sounders have been unable to field what could reasonably be called their top-choice lineup.
While it’s hardly guaranteed, there’s at least a good chance of that finally happening on Sunday when the Sounders host the Portland Timbers (10 pm ET, ESPN2).
The biggest question marks heading into the match surround Obafemi Martins, Osvaldo Alonso and Djimi Traore, all of whom have been limited this week but were full participants in Friday’s training session. Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said he expected all three of them to at least be able to contribute.
Even if he’s not able to start, the Sounders are also hoping to get Martins on the field with Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson for the first time. On paper, the trio forms one of the most talented attacking corps in MLS. But they’ve also had precious little time to train together and there’s still some question as to the most effective way to utilize them.
“That’s what we have to see,” Schmid said. “We haven’t really had the opportunity to play all three of them at the same time. We just have to figure it out. You don’t know until you stick them out in a game for sure and see what everyone’s tendencies become and what they do or don’t do when pressure hits. That’s when you can really tell if it’s going to work in a certain formation or not. That’s something that’s still ahead of us.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re still 22 games in and we’re trying to figure it out. But it’s fortunate that we have enough talent that if we figure it out we should be good.”
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Though the Sounders may not have been able to see how they’ll all work together quite yet, Schmid is clearly aware of the amount of talent he now has at his disposal. Dempsey has already started to impress his new coach, despite having to work his way back to full sharpness. Schmid said Dempsey is probably at about 90 percent fitness now.
“The week of training has been good for Clint in terms of building up his fitness, working on his touches,” Schmid said. “We did a pretty heavy day with him on Wednesday and he felt good about that. He said it helped him fitness-wise and touch-wise.
"Now it’s just a matter of he just not putting too much pressure on himself to get that first goal or try to get that first assist. Just let it come. Once it comes, he’ll be settled and I think it will help our team.”