SAN JOSE, Calif. – Defending their first MLS championship is not coming easy for the Seattle Sounders, especially their defenders.


Injuries and absences have forced Seattle to juggle their starting assignments throughout 2017. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer drew up his fifth different lineup in as many matches to face the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.


And just when things seemed to be trending the right way, with Oniel Fisher, Chad Marshall and Roman Torres all once again manning Seattle’s back line against the Quakes, the plan didn’t even make it to the quarter-hour mark.


Torres, whose Avaya Stadium history already included tearing an ACL there in September 2015, was forced off in the 15th minute of what would finish as a disappointing 1-1 draw. The Panamanian international suffered what Schmetzer termed a “slight” hamstring strain.


“No idea,” Schmetzer said when asked about Torres’ potential availability for Friday’s trip to Vancouver (10 pm ET | TSN in Canada, MLS LIVE in US). “We’ll get him home and see how he looks, figure that out.


“Injuries happen. It’s part of the game. It’s a long season. We’ll get him back fit; we’ll be fine.”


The pain of Torres’ early departure might have been eased by three points, which Seattle were in line to snatch thanks to Nicolas Lodeiro’s slicing 85th-minute strike off Clint Dempsey’s blocked free kick. But Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski canceled out that goal by volleying home Marco Ureña’s cross in the final minute of regulation, leaving the Sounders feeling like they’d lost, rather than extending their unbeaten streak to four straight matches.

Sounders calm despite dropped points in San Jose, Torres hamstring injury - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/styles/image_landscape/s3/images/Sounders-vs-Quakes.jpg

“It’s always good to earn points,” Lodeiro told reporters through a translator. “It just feels hard that we had the game in hand. It was just four minutes left, and they ended up scoring.”


As his teammate Cristian Roldan put it: “Any time you get equalized in the 90th minute, it’s difficult to swallow.”


If there’s a positive to all the forced changes on defense, it’s that Schmetzer and Co. are developing new depth for use as they bid to become the league’s first repeat champions since the LA Galaxy took home MLS Cup trophies in 2011 and 2012. Newcomer Gustav Svensson, a defensive midfielder pressed into duty at center back and right back this season, came on for Torres and held up well.


“Maybe that’s not optimal,” Svensson said of the fluidity, “but sometimes it’s like this. You have injuries, you have national-team [duty]. But it’s just the beginning of the season, so we’ll see what happens.”


Seattle have proven deep enough to give Schmetzer some tactical flexibility, such as when Roldan dropped to right back in the 70th minute to make room for Alvaro Fernandez, who replaced Fisher.


“It gives us a more attack-minded look,” Schmetzer said of the move. “I could have left Fish on; he’s a steady guy, he’s a lockdown guy. We wanted to go out and win the game. I felt the game was there to win.


“We got the goal and at that point in time, we should have closed the game out. … MLS games are too close, the teams are too filled with parity, that you have to concentrate for 90 minutes. That’s where we failed.”