The Seattle Sounders have not been able to put their best starting 11 on the field yet but they came closer Friday when they faced the Houston Dynamo.
Coach Sigi Schmid said the squad should be strengthened with the return of forward Nate Jaqua and winger Steve Zakuani. Midfielder Brad Evans sat out with a concussion. Forwards Mike Fucito and Pat Noonan are still recovering from injuries and will not be part of the squad.
Schmid was coy about the starting lineup but did say he knows who has earned the right to be considered for selection against Houston.
Im not going to give you our starting lineup at this stage,” Schmid said. “But I think theyve shown themselves to be guys we have to consider and we have to look at in terms of the 18 and possibly even in the starting 11.
Schmid is clearly pleased with the return of Jaqua — who saw action against the Dynamo. The big target forward has been struggling to shake off the consequences of an off-season hip surgery and has yet to play meaningful minutes.
Injuries have been interrupting Jaqua’s ability to get a good run of games since early last season. This has hampered his ability to be a serious scoring threat and foil for Fredy Montero.
Jaqua had a career record nine goals and made seven assists in 2009, but last year was compromised by groin and lower stomach strains that kept him out for the first third of the season. He returned in June to score five goals in a U.S. Open Cup championship run, but he was still feeling some pain that ultimately required surgery.
For Schmid, Jaqua could be one of the catalysts to bust open the Sounders’ scoring draught.
“Its good to get some guys back into the mix like Zakuani, Evans and Jaqua,” Schmid said. “We were able to do a full week of training. I thought those were all positives.
The players, he said, have responded well in training this week — which included two closed practice sessions. He said that newbie midfielder Mauro Rosales continues to gain his fitness and integrate into the squad and could play a role tomorrow.
“He looks all right and fits in the group real well,” Schmid said. “Its just matter of getting his game legs under him. We’ll see what the opportunity brings with the game on Friday.”
Schmid continued to answer questions about no goals and losing the first two games of the MLS season. He said he’s not too worried, the team is responding well, practicing well and reminded those who were listening that there are still 96 points up for grabs.
“The only concerns I have is not getting overly swayed by the outside influences,” he said. “People have high expectations for our club. We are the victims of our own success in that regard. As a result, people push a button real quick, ‘Whoops, we just lost two.’
“Youve got to look at a body of time, when you get four or five games into it, then you sit there and say ‘is it or isnt working’,” Schmid said. “We havent been able to put our best 11 on our field yet and once we get our best 11 on the field, then well be able to judge.”