The two injured starters trained for a second consecutive day as the Sounders prepare for the second leg of their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Portland Timbers. The Sounders currently trail 2-1 in the aggregate series heading into Thursday’s game at JELD-WEN Field (11 pm ET, NBCSN, TSN2, Univision Dep.).
“They were able to do what we wanted them to do, which was important,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “DeAndre got through a portion. Oba got through what we wanted him to get through. He picked it up from yesterday, which was really, really encouraging. We’re as healthy as we can be right now.”
Yedlin has been nursing an ankle injury since leaving at halftime of the Sounders’ 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids in the Knockout Round and subsequently missed the first leg against the Timbers. Schmid suggested Yedlin was held out as more of a precaution, mainly because the rookie has never before played with an injury.
Yedlin’s absence was made particularly acute by the Sounders’ diamond shape. Ideally, much of the offensive width is generated by Yedlin’s ability to get up and down the sideline. Without Yedlin, that task fell to Zach Scott. Not exactly the fleetest of foot to begin with, Scott was further hampered by a cracked rib he suffered in the first half before being replaced by Brad Evans in the 63rd minute.
It’s unclear if the Sounders would opt to keep the diamond even in the absence of Yedlin, and potentially Scott.
Martins’ availability could have even bigger ramifications on the Sounders’ shape. If he can start, Martins provides a simple replacement for the role previously filled by Lamar Neagle, who’s out on yellow-card accumulation.
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If Martins can’t go, the Sounders are in somewhat uncharted waters as either Neagle or Martins have started in every game since Clint Dempsey’s acquisition. The likely scenario would be for either Dempsey or Mauro Rosales to start alongside Eddie Johnson at forward. But both pose imperfect solutions.
Putting Dempsey at forward would likely mean starting Rosales at the tip of the diamond, where he has not previously excelled. Keeping Dempsey in the midfield would likely mean putting Rosales at forward, another position at which he’s seen mixed results.
There’s also a chance the Sounders move out of the diamond, the formation they’ve used in each of their past three games and seem to prefer at this point. That would allow Rosales to move back into his more comfortable wide midfield spot, but would either pull a forward off the field or lessen the possibility of running the offense through Dempsey.