TUKWILA, Wash. – The Seattle Sounders could introduce three new players to their lineup today, while also welcoming back Obafemi Martins from a two-month absence, all as Brad Evans reorients himself to another new position.
That’s a lot of moving parts for a team heading into the final 10 games of its Major League Soccer season while dangerously flirting with the playoff red line.
“It’s forced cohesion at this point,” Evans said. “It’s a bit like the national team, I guess: You bring guys in at a certain time and expect them to play at a top level. We’re all good enough pros to know that when you come in, the game remains the game. Sometimes formations are different and players are different. Does it take time? Yeah, of course. But at the same time, I think we’re all professional enough to put in the work.”
The club seems confident the changes are upgrades. Expected to make their Sounders debuts are forward Nelson Valdez, arriving from the German Bundesliga; midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz, arriving from Spain’s La Liga; and central defender Roman Torres, arriving from Colombia’s Millonarios after an impressive Gold Cup for Panama.
“This whole week of training has helped,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said Friday. “A lot of guys adjusting time zones and things like that. Torres, he only got here on Tuesday so he’s had two training sessions. … We’re happy with all that.”
The team also is happy about the expected return of Martins, who remains a club co-leader with seven goals despite not appearing in a league match since June 13. He suffered a leg injury in the U.S. Open Cup loss to Portland, but trained fully last week.
Evans’ shift back to the midfield fills a couple of needs: opening a spot in the central defense for Torres and patching the defensive midfield hole created by Osvaldo Alonso’s hamstring injury.
Evans had moved from midfield to defense at the start of this season and asked only that he be allowed to remain there for the entire season. However, as team captain, he dutifully relented when Schmid approached him about a shift.
If it’s any consolation for the Sounders, their opponent, Orlando City, is an expansion team that knows a thing or two about trying to develop cohesion on the fly.
The Lions got off to an encouraging 1-0-1 start but come into this match with a 7-10-7 overall record and one win over their last seven games.
Their goalkeeper is Tally Hall, who played at Gig Harbor HS, and their attack features Brazilian designated player Kaka, the 2007 FIFA world player of the year, and former No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick Cyle Larin, who has 11 goals.
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