Sounders FC has reached the homecoming part of its schedule.
Tonight, the Sounders will face former teammate Stephen King, who will be in the Qwest Field visitors’ locker room as a new member of D.C. United. Then, after Major League Soccer pauses for its World Cup break, the Sounders will return to action at Philadelphia, the new home of Sebastien Le Toux.
King and Le Toux are each producing with their new clubs in ways they never did in Seattle. However, the Sounders maintain, that doesn’t necessarily mean mistakes were made in letting those players go.
“In the case of Stephen King, sometimes a team is overloaded in a position and another team is underloaded in that position, and you’re able to make a trade that works and helps that person and you go forward,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said Wednesday. “I think in Stephen’s case, it was a good opportunity for him because D.C. was light in midfield and we were maybe a little bit heavier there in terms of guys who can play in that position, and it gave him a good opportunity.”
So far, King has made the most of that opportunity after being mostly an afterthought in Seattle.
Last season, he made 10 appearances with the Sounders, including three starts. This season, he was inactive in Seattle’s first six games before being traded on April 30 for a second-round pick in the 2011 SuperDraft.
Since arriving in D.C., King has played 195 minutes over three league appearances, including two starts. He has taken five shots, putting two on goal.
More importantly, his arrival has coincided with improved play by United, which had gotten off to the worst start in club history.
“They are a team that hasn’t gotten a lot of results this year; and as a result, they have been searching for their confidence,” Schmid said. “But as of late, they have gotten good results, so their confidence has gotten better.”
In King’s first league start with the Black and Red, he helped them to a 3-2 win over Chivas USA. He also started in United’s 3-2 friendly win over AC Milan. He started in a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake that qualified United for the U.S. Open Cup, and he nearly scored what would have been the winner in D.C.’s league draw against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
He is expected to be in the starting 11 again tonight.
“It will be the same as facing Seba (Le Toux) in the first game,” Sounders forward Steve Zakuani said of King’s return tonight. “It will be nice to see them, but at the same time, you want to beat them.”
The Sounders got the best of Le Toux in their first meeting on March 25, taking a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, which selected him in the expansion draft.
However, since then, Le Toux has become one of the league’s most improved players, and he will take five goals and three assists into Philly’s match tonight against Kansas City.
“Obviously, in Seba’s case, you can’t protect every player,” Schmid said. “And so, who gets taken? Stephen King was available in that same expansion draft, and Philadelphia decided to choose Seba. There have been other players that have been available in the expansion draft – good players. I remember Eddie Gaven (of the Columbus Crew) being available in the expansion draft, and nobody took him. So it all depends on what that team is looking for. Sometimes you lose a guy who you expect to lose, or you lose a guy you don’t expect to lose.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer