TUKWILA, Wash. – Sigi Schmid has said on numerous occasions that he believes Bryan Meredith could be a starter for many MLS teams.
The Seattle Sounders coach will put that theory to the test on Saturday against the Philadelphia Union, when Meredith will receive his first career MLS start (4:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).
The Sounders had been holding out some hope that an MRI would clear starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning to play, but tests on Thursday revealed that he has sustained muscle damage in his right hip. The Austrian is now likely to miss the next two to three weeks, which should keep him out at least until the Sounders visit the Vancouver Whitecaps on May 19.
“They think they’ve determined the cause of it,” said Schmid, adding that the injury is aggravated when Gspurning kicks the ball. “We’ve got to shut him down for a week and then start to build him up again. They’ll give him some treatment on Monday they think will help with the process.”
The good news is that the Sounders seem to have quite a bit of faith in Meredith, who has steadily worked his way up the depth chart since being a second-round pick in the 2011 SuperDraft.
Meredith actually failed to make the team out of training camp, but was re-signed later in the year and was considered neck-and-neck with veteran Andrew Weber for the backup job this year. Weber will be the backup on Saturday, as he’s now recovered from an ankle injury that had been keeping him out.
“I think we’ll play the same,” said Schmid, noting that Meredith started a CONCACAF Champions League game against eventual champions Monterrey last year. “Feet-wise, Meredith and Michael are similar. The guys are comfortable playing balls back to Meredith as well, his kicking is good. He’s good on cross balls. We’re very confident that way.”
Meredith will become the 20th player to earn a start for the Sounders this season, and there are bound to be more changes in the starting lineup. Seattle are playing the third of what will be five matches in 15 days and Schmid has indicated there will be some lineup juggling.
Patrick Ianni appears to be fully recovered from his back injury and could receive his first start in three matches and Álvaro Fernández will likely at least make an appearance on the bench. Adam Johansson also seems a safe bet to start after being on the bench last game.
On the flip side, Eddie Johnson and Mauro Rosales are probably long shots to play, as they are both coming off two matches in five days and are still working back to full fitness.
“We have a lot of good players, a lot of guys that can come in at any time and fill in at the spots where the so-called starter was,” Sounders defender Jeff Parke said. “It’s a good thing to have, because there’s not many teams that can do it.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.