After a day off, the Sounders were back in action Monday with a training session at CenturyLink Field. Here are some notes…
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— First off, some injury updates. Lamar Neagle was able to put in a full practice after having been limited the past week or so with a hip flexor injury suffered at Real Salt Lake. Osvaldo Alonso (quad strain) and DeAndre Yedlin (separated shoulder) also practiced, but indications were they were held out of some activity. Coach Sigi Schmid said he hopes at least two of the three will be available Wednesday versus D.C. United, but didn’t want to say which. Later in a live chat, Schmid described Yedlin and probable and expressed some uncertainty Alonso would be ready.
— And now for another update on Mario Martinez. Schmid said they’re still negotiating and indicated that if a deal gets done, the Honduran national-team coach would still honor his agreement to not play Martinez in the Gold Cup. That said, Schmid didn’t make it seem like a deal is imminent: “As I said, our expectation was that Mario was going to be back here last week, and obviously he didn’t return, so maybe that’s his indication of where he wants to be.”
— Schmid added that he expects resolution on the matter in the next couple days. His response to the situation in the live chat was another indication that relationship will end in a parting of ways: “As each day goes by, it makes it less likely (a deal will get done), but it’s something we’re still in discussion about. We’d love to have him return, but right now he’s in Honduras, we’re in Seattle, so we’re miles apart — so to speak.” A play on words too good to pass up, it seems.
— Rookie Eriq Zavaleta was back in Seattle but will soon be heading back to San Antonio to finish up his loan with the Scorpions of the second-division North American Soccer League. Zavaleta had a big game over the weekend and could be a part of a title push in Thursday’s season finale against Carolina. So why did he come back here? “He’s got a situation where he was trying to take some classes, and so this allows to go touch base with his teachers and then he goes back there,” Schmid said. “He’s cleared that with them, so they get him back here, he spends a day with his teachers and then he goes back there.”
— Trialist Roberto Chen was at practice but he will be leaving to join the Panamanian national team for the upcoming Gold Cup. I asked Schmid how Chen has been doing and if the team has been tracking the defender since he played against the Sounders as a 17 year old in the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League with Panama’s San Francisco FC. “I think he’s done well since he’s been here in training, so we’ll have to see how it goes from there,” Schmid said. “… Yeah, we’ve had an eye on him. We liked him then at that age, and obviously he did his ACL in between that, so he had to recover from there. In the interim, we’ve been waiting for him to heal and try to get him back up here so we could have a look at him. It was good for us to get a look at him and get to know him as a person.” Chen and Panama play Martinique here in the Gold Cup on July 11 before Mexico-Canada at CenturyLink Field.
— You can tell the Schmid and the Sounders are just praying for the chance to have a healthy, first-choice squad available for some measure of time: “The last thing we ever try and do is make excuses, but when you look at our team and you say, ‘OK, when have we had a chance to play with Yedlin, Alonso, Lamar, Oba, and Eddie Johnson all at the same time — and Brad Evans, as well?’ … We really haven’t had that chance I don’t think at all this season. Now it’s a matter of what does this group look like when those guys can get on the field together and establish some rhythm of playing together over a period of games?
— Johnson had mentioned last week trying to work on timing and rhythm with Martins. Well, those two stayed on the field long after practice was over on their own.
— On a different subject, I asked Schmid the reasoning behind releasing defender Ashani Fairclough, someone who seemed to acquit himself well in preseason and someone the team spoke highly of in terms of potential down the road. “I mean Ashani was doing well,” the coach said. “It was more a situation that we wanted to make sure that we didn’t get caught short on foreign spots as we looked into the transfer window, and so that was important for us. It’s not so much Ashani as much as opening a foreign spot. Ashani did well, but on the pecking order of central defenders – especially with Patrick Ianni getting healthy again – he was down the list, and so it made sense to make that move.”
— The Sounders have four of seven international slots occupied with Obafemi Martins, Djimi Traore, Andy Rose and Philip Lund. Martinez would also take one. So that would indicate the Sounders intend to make multiple signings while the summer transfer window is open from July 9 to Aug. 8.
— Lastly, the Sounders haven’t been making up any ground in the MLS All-Star Game fan voting. The ballots close at noon Tuesday: