The Sounders returned to practice Monday after a four-day break and a bye weekend, though not everyone was back. Here is a quick rundown and some notes…
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— U.S. internationals Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans are still away for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Honduras, which features another Sounder in Mario Martinez. The trio is expected to return to Seattle on Wednesday instead of staying in Salt Lake City for Saturday’s MLS road game against Real Salt Lake. Coach Sigi Schmid explained: “Otherwise they’re in Salt Lake all day Wednesday, Thursday, Friday until we get there, and they wouldn’t be able to train.” The players’ minutes played Tuesday could affect their roles Saturday.
— Obafemi Martins was set to return from his break later in the day Monday. It was an excused absence as Schmid gave him extra time off for what was essentially Martins’ summer vacation. You might remember the DP forward had started his season in September with Levante UD of Spain. “This was his offseason break — right here — then he’s on the schedule that we’re on from here on out,” the coach said. “I think his last two weeks here, he trained really, really hard. You guys were out at training, he really put in a great effort. Obviously in our last two games, he scored the game winner in Chivas and he set up the game winner against Vancouver. That’s what you want from a player of his caliber. I’m confident his head is in it. He’s ready. Physically, he’ll be ready. The knee hasn’t been a bother since we had that work done, so all of those things are good.”
— As a reminder, DeAndre Yedlin is with the U.S. U-20 team for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. Their first group game is Friday against Spain.
— Also, Eriq Zavaleta is still on loan with the San Antonio Scorpions of the NASL. The rookie started in Saturday’s 2-1 road win against the Tampa Bay Rowdies — some measure of Open Cup revenge for Zavaleta perhaps — and looked to be pretty active according to San Antonio’s Twitter account.
— Steve Zakuani is away after Tuesday’s surgery to repair a sports hernia. Schmid said the surgery and recovery having been going as expected. Josh Ford is continuing to recover from knee surgery, as well.
— There was no clarity available on Osvaldo Alonso‘s status for Saturday as he recovers from a thigh strain. Schmid said the midfielder is doing better, ramping up his fitness work and currently in a day-by-day situation. Alonso still hasn’t returned to full training.
— Here is Schmid on Alonso: “We know we’ve got this game here against Salt Lake and then you have another window, a period of time, so we’re trying to make sure we make the right decision going into this game — that we don’t try and push him in the Salt Lake game and then lose him again — and try to take full advantage. … If he’s ready to play, we’ll play him, because he’s an important member of our team. But right now, certainly what it does is if he’s not ready, it definitely in our minds says, ‘Let’s not push it. Let’s not be silly.’”
— And here was Schmid on the break: “It’s good for them to get a break just to get away, spend some time with their family or do whatever they want to do. Maybe they’ve got some ‘honey-do’ list to take care of at home with their wives or whatever the case may be. But it was good for them to get away physically and mentally. Then it was good today just to have a training session where we just kept it big — not a lot of explosive stuff, kept the numbers really big. It was good for them to sweat. You need that first day of sweating in and they’ll all feel a lot better tomorrow.”
— The unmistakeable sounds of the beep test, a grueling endurance test, were audible early on. “We had told them be prepared for that,” Schmid said when asked if it was a surprise to the players. “It wasn’t the full beep test. It was sort of a mini beep test that gives us a chance to look at heart rate and see where they all are and see where they’re back at, especially for some of the guys we asked to work a little bit harder.”
— Asked if Martins is adjusting to all the plane travel that sometimes takes a toll on international signings, Schmid said Martins is well-suited for it: “I think a player like himself, an African player who’s played in World Cup qualifiers in Africa while he’s playing in Europe, he’s had to go through some extensive travel. Even from Europe, people think Europe to Africa is not a problem. Well, the flight from Amsterdam to Lagos is eight hours. So it’s travel. Having to have played for Nigeria while he was playing at Inter, while he was playing at Newcastle, still involved some travel, so I think he’s maybe a little more accustomed to it than a guy who’s played in Spain all his life and then for the Spanish national team.”
— The Sounders lineup might be in line for some change once everyone gets back. Schmid brought up a couple notable issues: “Obviously Yedlin is going to be missing, so we have an opening at right back. Do we do that with Brad? Do we do that with Zach Scott? It all depends. Obviously Lamar (Neagle) has been playing well. Oba’s been playing well. So those two and Eddie probably all deserve to be on the field. So how does that change things? Who slides out to the flank? All that we’ll decide.”