Sounders welcome Dempsey back for LA visit, first in "series of big games"

TUKWILA, Wash. – Crunch time may have arrived earlier than usual for the Seattle Sounders.

Ahead of their home matchup with the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field on Saturday (3 pm ET, ESPN, MLS LIVE in Canada), the Sounders sport a 5-9-2 record, a mark that leaves them tied with the Houston Dynamo for last place in the Western Conference with 17 points.

The MLS season is still less than halfway through, and Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid stopped short of using the term “must-win” while speaking with reporters after his team’s practice on Thursday. But given their current position on the table, Seattle’s upcoming slate of games has suddenly become much more high-stakes than your typical July fixtures.

“We’ve got a series of big games [coming up],” Schmid said. “I know they were in different competitions but we’ve had three positive results in our last three outings. So we’re going to be ready to play [on Saturday] and put our stamp on the game and compete.”

The Sounders have netted an MLS-low 14 goals in 16 games thus far in 2016, leading to some speculation that Schmid might consider tinkering with the new 4-3-3 formation Seattle implemented before the start of the season – a change that has yet to pay consistent dividends.

But if he has any plans to make any sort of notable tactical adjustments, Schmid didn’t divulge them on Thursday.

“We’re committed to getting the best players onto the field,” Schmid said. “I’ve always said formations are a reflection of players’ tendencies. You can play what you call a 4-2-3-1 and sometimes it’ll look more like a 4-4-2.

“That’s something [the media] likes to talk about more than me…I know everyone loves to talk about that because it’s simple. There’s no explanation needed, just numbers.”

As they try to reassert themselves into the Western Conference playoff picture, the Sounders hope the return of Clint Dempsey can provide a remedy to those attacking struggles. The star forward hasn’t started a game for Seattle since May 21 while on US national team duty at this summer’s Copa America Centenario, but will be available on Saturday.

Schmid also said on Thursday that defender Chad Marshall passed the MLS concussion protocol and has been cleared after he exited last weekend’s match against Toronto with a migraine. Panamanian center back Roman Torres, however, is still a few weeks away from his return to the lineup as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL suffered last season.