SEATTLE – His back line the deepest it’s been all season, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer is ready to see the team’s attack show cohesion that’s been missing up to now as well.
The Sounders enter Saturday night’s game in San Jose stocked with options at center and right back and with Brad Evans working back to potentially rejoining the squad next week. But aside from one mesmerizing second half against the New York Red Bulls in the team’s home opener, it’s been a sputtering start for the men up front.
“I hope I learn that we’ve found our offensive rhythm and that we score a couple of goals,’’ Schmetzer said of the game against the Earthquakes, 2-0 at home thus far.
A number of factors have slowed the team’s attack, the biggest being the readjustment of Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro to playing alongside each other. Throw in the benching of Alvaro Fernandez in favor of Harry Shipp, there’s been plenty of getting acquainted in the first four games.
It hasn’t helped that Dempsey was eased back into things throughout training camp after being sidelined last August with an irregular heartbeat. Nor that Morris has been bothered off-and-on by a lingering ankle issue that’s kept him out two weeks at a time on two separate occasions since February.
Throw in national-team duty, which saw Lodeiro fly home from Uruguay and Dempsey from Panama before last Friday’s scoreless draw against Atlanta, and there hasn’t been much time to meld.
“It is what it is,’’ Dempsey said. “Other teams have to deal with it.
Dempsey said he feels his on-field chemistry with the playmaking Lodeiro coming together.
“He makes the game easier for his teammates,’’ said Dempsey, who scored five goals in three games playing alongside Lodeiro last summer after Lodeiro’s transfer from Boca Juniors. “He opens the field up. He helps us with possession. Also, he works really hard for the team defensively and covers a lot of ground for us.’’
So far, that’s yet to translate into early scoring. The Sounders have just one first-half goal all season, coming in the 3-1 home-opening win over the Red Bulls. They’ve scored five goals in the second half, and Schmetzer after the Atlanta game opined his attackers could stand to be more aggressive in taking early shots.
That said, his back line has grown stronger as the season progresses. That’s largely because of the fill-in work at right and center back by midfielder Gustav Svensson. Heading into San Jose, the Sounders should have a rested Roman Torres, Chad Marshall healthy after a brief illness and Oniel Fisher fully recovered from a hamstring injury.
The Earthquakes can’t say much the same, with their defenders dropping like flies.
Harold Cummings is out four to six months after surgery last week to repair a high-ankle sprain and fractured fibula following an accident in his home. Marvell Wynne was already lost for the season in February after his own heart abnormality was discovered and required surgery.
Then, during a 2-1 loss at Yankee Stadium last week to New York City FC, veteran Honduran defender Victor Bernardez took a red card and was suspended for Saturday’s match. Schmetzer said the absence of San Jose’s back-line star, known as “Muma,” and the expected presence of Argentine defender Andreas Imperiale in his place won’t change his team’s preparations much despite their differing styles.
For Schmetzer “they’re both very good players’’ and his team will study the requisite film.
“We just deal with it and make adjustments.’’
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