MATCH: Seattle Sounders FC (9-7-4, 31 points, 7th, MLS West) at Toronto FC (4-10-8, 20 points, 9th, MLS East. TYPE: MLS. WHEN: Saturday, 4 p.m, BMO Field. MEETING: 7th (Sounders lead 5-1-1). TV: KONG. RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM; SPANISH: KOMO2 (Comcast Ch. 114) and La Gran D 99.3 FM.
Head coach Sigi Schmid only hinted at how much Clint Dempsey will play Saturday in Toronto, but the Sounders have already started to realize a return on the $41 million investment they made in the 30-year-old Texan. Within hours of his signing earlier this week, the Sounders generated an additional 6,000 ticket sales for their next home match, Aug. 25 vs. Portland.
With that, the Sounders are expected to exceed the 66,452 that they drew for the Timbers Oct. 7, 2012. If so, it will rank as the second-largest crowd ever for an MLS game. A crowd of 69,225 saw a match between the L.A. Galaxy and the NY/NJ Metrostars in 1996. The anticipation is a sellout of the Clink’s capacity at 72,000.
Before the Sounders can stage a welcome party, they have to play two road matches, starting in Toronto Saturday. Dempsey will bring quite a portfolio to the match:
- Captain of the U.S. National Team.
- Second all-time on the U.S. team with 35 goals.
- Ninth in U.S. history with 12 assists and 13th with 99 caps.
- Second player in U.S. soccer history to score in consecutive World Cups with an equalizer against England June 12, 2010.
- Five goals in eight starts for the U.S. in 2013, and led the team in goals the past two years.
- U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year three times, including the past two years.
- Holds the record for most goals (57) by an American in the English Premier League (matching the next three Americans in England combined: Brian McBride, Roy Wegerle, and a tie between Joe-Max Moore and Carlos Bocanegra).
While the Sounders are riding a nine-match (6-0-3) unbeaten run at CenturyLink Field (no losses since the home opener March 2), they have struggled away from home, going 3-6-1 with a -7 goal differential. The Sounders have lost the past three road games.
“It has to be a thing where it becomes a theme,” said defender Brad Evans. “Not just nine games unbeaten and we take it for granted. It has to be something that carries on. That’s something that other teams recognize.”
Toronto is riding a three-match unbeaten run, including two straight victories.
The Sounders have the most matches remaining (14) of any MLS team. Nine are against Western Conference foes, with all but one of those teams currently ahead of the Sounders in the standings.
“I think everybody realizes that we have the potential to get to the playoffs – that’s where we need to get to,” said Schmid. “We need to put ourselves in a good position and then make noise. Last year, the two fifth-place teams ended up playing for MLS Cup. We are, point-wise, not in the playoff picture. When you look at points per game, we’re pretty close.”
That’s part of what prompted the signing of Dempsey.
“The likelihood of him (Dempsey ) going 90 minutes Saturday is very small,” said Schmid. “Whether that’s starting and coming off or coming on as a sub, we’ll have to see.”
The match will be the lone meeting of the season between the sides, and Seattle enters it with four straight wins against the Reds. Seattle is expected to start Marcus Hahnemann in goal, as Michael Gspurning is still healing a sprained forearm.
Led by first-year manager Ryan Nelson, Toronto is eighth in the Eastern Conference with 20 points (4-10-8). Toronto has struggled at home, going 2-3-6 with a -1 goal differential (14/15), but is unbeaten in the past three (1-0-2) at BMO Field.
Despite the addition of English Premier League veteran Robert Earnshaw, the club has sputtered offensively, ranking near the bottom of the league in goals (17th), assists (18th), shots (19th) and shots on goal (17th).
Earnshaw leads with six goals, despite not playing the last three games because of injury, while Bobby Convey and Jeremy Brockie have three assists apiece. Goalkeeper Joseph Bendik has played all 22 games and is just outside the top 10 with a 1.32 goals against average. The Reds have yet to win a game against a Western Conference side (0-5-2) this season.
The Sounders have not made an official announcement, but Sports Illustrated reported that Eddie Johnson and Evans will be called away from the Sounders Wednesday for the USA-Bosnia road friendly. Dempsey will apparently not join the U.S. team for the match.
With the friendly scheduled for Eastern Europe, it’s hard to tell how this will impact Seattle’s situation for the road match next Saturday Houston.
“I’ve said to Jurgen (U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann) he’s making my job harder trying to get into the playoffs if he keeps grabbing players from me,” Schmid said this week. “But it is what it is. I’d rather have players of that quality than not have players of that quality, but there are certain sacrifices you’ve got to make along with that.”
SOUNDERS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Marcus Hahnemann. Defenders — DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez. Midfielders — Osvaldo Alonso, Lamar Neagle, Brad Evans, Mauro Rosales. Forwards — Obafemi Martins, Eddie Johnson.
TORONTO FC PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Joseph Bendik. Defenders — Richard Eckersley, Steven Caldwell, Gale Agbossoumonde, Astone Morgan. Midfielders — Jonathan Osorio, Jeremy Hall, Matias Laba, Bobby Convey. Forwards — Justin Braun, Jeremy Brockie.
INJURIES: Seattle — Out, MF Alex Caskey (right ankle impingement), GK Josh Ford (right patella fracture), GK Michael Gspurning (left forearm sprain), MF Shalrie Joseph (right calf strain), MF Philip Lund (right plantar fasciitis), MF Steve Zakuani (sports hernia surgery). Toronto FC — Out, None. SUSPENSIONS: Seattle — None. Toronto FC — None. INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Seattle — None; Toronto FC — None.
SERIES: Dates to April 4, 2009, when the Sounders won 2-0 at Toronto in a match that featured goals by Freddie Ljungberg and Steve Zakuani. Seattle has outscored Toronto by an aggregate of 12-5. In the most recent match, March 17, 2012, David Estrada recorded his first career hat trick as the Sounders won their 2012 season opener 3-1.
SOUNDERS STATS / NOTES
- REGULAR-SEASON SUMMARY (MLS): Overall: 9-7-4. Last 5: L-L-T-W-W. Home: 6-1-3. Road: 3-6-1. Vs. East: 2-1-1. Vs. West: 7-6-3. March: 0-3-1; April: 1-0-1; May: 3-1-1; June: 2-1-0; July: 2-2-1; August: 1-0-0; September: 0-0-0; October: 0-0-0. Goals For: 27. Goals Against: 22. Differential: +5.
- MLS TEAM RANKS: Goals: 27 (14th). Goals Scored Avg.: 1.35 (9th). Goals Allowed Per Match: 1.10 (6th). Shots: 225 (17th). Shots On Goal: 80 (16th). Fouls Committed: 256 (14th). Fouls Suffered: 256 (16th). Yellow Card Cautions: 30 (T14).
- 6-0-2 when leading at the half, 2-1-2 when tied at the half, 1-6-0 when trailing at the half.
- 7-0-2 when scoring first, 1-7-1 when conceding first.
- Newcomer Clint Dempsey will wear No. 2 for Sounders FC. All-Star defender DeAndre Yedlin has switched to No. 17.
- Brad Evans, Obafemi Martins and Mauro Rosales have combined for three goals and five assists in the past two matches.
- Sounders are 8-0-0 when Martins scores or assists.
- Sounders have won four season series (Kansas City, Dallas, Chivas USA and D.C. United).
- Sounders have 14 regular-season games remaining, most in MLS.
- Seattle has gone 10-4-4 in 18 games in the month of August and outscored opponents 32-15, including one loss in the past 14 outings.
- Seattle has earned the most wins (9), scored the most goals (27) and earned the second-most points (31) in club history through 20 games.
- In last Saturday’s 3-0 win, the Sounders held Dallas to zero shots on goal. It marked the fourth time in club history that Seattle accomplished the feat, and the first time it has happened twice in one season. The shutout also marked the team’s seventh of the campaign, ranking seventh in MLS. The seven shutouts in 20 matches is the second-best mark in club history.
- For the Aug. 25 match against Portland, the Sounders will expand the capacity of Century Link Field to include 400 additional upper-deck bleacher seats and standing room only.
SOUNDERS MLS LEADERS
|Starts||Traore 18, Gonzalez 18, Gspurning 17|
|Goals||Martins 7, Neagle 5, Johnson 5|
|Assists||Rosales 5, Evans 4, Martins 3, Neagle 3|
|Shots||Johnson 31, Neagle 29, Martins 28|
|Shots On Goal||Johnson 16, Neagle 14, Martins 12|
|Fouls Caused||Neagle 28, Alonso 26, Carrasco 22|
|Fouls Suffered||Johnson 28, Rosales 23, Alonso 21|
|Offsides||Johnson 25, Neagle 7, Evans 7|
|Corner Kicks||Rosales 55, Martinez 17|
|Cautions||Johnson 5, Traore 4, Hurtado 4|
|Ejections||6 tied with 1 each|
COMING UP: The Sounders are on the road for two of the next three matches. They visit the Houston Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium for the first time Aug. 17 and will conclude the month with a visit to the Columbus Crew Aug. 31. Seattle hosts the Portland Timbers in the next home match Aug. 25.
Seattle Sounders FC 2013 Schedule / Results
(9-7-4, 31 points, MLS; 1-1-0 CCL; 0-1-0 U.S. Open Cup)
|3/6||*at Tigres||7:00||Fox Soccer||L||1-0||0-0-0|
|3/23||^at San Jose||7:30||KING 5||L||1-0||0-2-1|
|5/26||^at LA Galaxy||8:00||ESPN2||L||4-0||4-4-3|
|7/13||^at San Jose||7:30||KING||L||1-0||7-7-3|
|9/21||^at LA Galaxy||7:30||NBCSN||—||—||—|
|10/19||^at FC Dallas||1:00||NBCSN||—||—||—|
*=CONCACAF; ^=Major League Soccer; #=U.S. Open Cup