Schmid says Sounders ready, despite absent pieces

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comFebruary 27, 2013 

Sounders FC began game-week preparations Tuesday, counting down to its Major League Soccer opener Saturday when the Montreal Impact visits CenturyLink Field.

“It’s good to have that first competitive match coming up, and I think guys are hungry,” said midfielder Brad Evans, one of seven Sounders about to begin their fifth season with the club. “The most important thing is I think guys are ready to go.”

While the players may be eager to play after more than five weeks of training, club executives agreed more time might be useful.

Seven-time All-Star Shalrie Joseph joined the team in

Tucson, Ariz., last week and is working his way into shape. French central defender Djimi Traoré was expected to arrive in town Tuesday and could resume training today. Perhaps most significant, the Sounders remain in pursuit of La Liga striker Obafemi Martins but haven’t closed the deal.

“(Martins is) a player we are hopefully circling the wagons on, and maybe with a little bit of luck be able to bring into the organization,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “Obviously, (we’re) not quite finished.”

Martins cannot be added to the roster until the club clears one of its three designated player slots. Indications are that negotiations are under way to buy out the contract of DP midfielder Christian Tiffert.

Once the moves are made, Hanauer said he likes the roster that seems to be coming together. But he admits it won’t be a finished product for the opener this weekend, nor for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series with Tigres, which begins a week from today in Monterrey, Mexico.

“In a perfect world some of the pieces would have come together a little faster,” Hanauer said. “Shalrie would have been a little further along, Djimi would have been a little further along. Maybe we’d have gotten a deal done for another player coming in. Certainly, in respect to the Champions League, that’s a little bit disappointing. But ultimately our big target is an MLS Cup, and we want to be peaking in September, October, November, December.”

Naturally, the season won’t wait until all of Seattle’s pieces are in place. So, coach Sigi Schmid declared his team ready to face the new season.

“As ready as we’re going to be,” he said. “We’ve had good results in preseason, but that doesn’t matter. Sometimes things can go topsy-turvy on you that way. But I feel good about where our team’s at. ... We’re at home, we’re in front of our fans, so we’d like to get the points in this first game.”

PERSONNEL UPDATES

Central defender Patrick Ianni (foot) will miss the opener, and probably several other games. And outside back Adam Johansson (knee) was limited in training, and his availability for Saturday isn’t known.

Joseph isn’t expected to play this week as he continues to build fitness while dealing with a calf injury.

Meanwhile, Joseph and Schmid agreed that his mostly likely position will be in the middle of midfield.

Schmid also said that while first-round draft pick Eriq Zavaleta is being used primarily as a central defender now, he could get more work at forward as the season moves along.

ADDED TIME

Defender Marc Burch is out Saturday while serving the last of a three-game suspension for his use of a gay slur during the 2012 playoffs. “I can’t make up for what I did,” Burch said Tuesday. “All I can do is just prove from here on out that nothing like that is ever going to happen again. That’s not who I am. That’s not what I do. That’s not part of my game. That’s not part of this team’s game. I made a mistake, and since then I think I’m doing the right things. That’s the only thing I can do from here on out.” ... The Sounders will return to training this morning. Tonight, the club will unveil new primary and secondary kits (uniforms) that will be used in this season.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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