The Seattle Sounders FC starting lineup was dotted with different faces for the Friday game against Houston, but for different reasons.
Zach Scott was rushed into service as a replacement for defender James Riley, who was out with a concussion.
However, it was coach Sigi Schmid’s decision to sit two of his most high-profile players: former All-Star defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and designated player/midfielder Alvaro Fernandez.
“There’s always competition,” Schmid said. “It’s there, and guys who are going to perform well are going to play.”
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He said an injury was a factor with Kennedy.
“It takes a little bit of time when you come in and out a little bit.”
Schmidt said Fernandez has not played poorly, but Erik Friberg has played better.
“It’s a case of trying to play the guy you think has been better,” Schmid said.
Early training in 2011 was satisfying for Patrick Ianni, who played well last season when Hurtado went down with a knee injury. But he suffered preseason injuries and slid to a reserve role for the season-opening 1-0 losses to Los Angles and New York.
“It was tough,” he said. “With Jhon coming back I know Sigi wanted to give us equal opportunity. Unfortunately I had a couple of injuries in preseason – my groin and my ribs – that kind of made it difficult.”
The defender hurt his groin in the middle of the exhibition schedule, then injured his ribs in the Vancouver game just before the start of the regular season.
The Sounders generally played well on defense in the 1-1 draw with Houston on Friday, allowing six shots and two on goal.
However, Ianni inadvertently set up the Dynamo’s goal when he fouled Geoff Cameron about 30 yards from the goal. That set up a free kick and eventually a goal by Cameron, after a Lovel Palmer shot rebounded off the crossbar.
“It was an unbelievable shot by the guy,” Ianni said. “It was one of those where we could have done a better job watching our guys on the free kick as well. But at the end of the day, it’s something that we talked about before the game: You don’t want to give free kicks to Houston anywhere on their half of the field. I thought maybe I had gotten away with it, but obviously not.”
Scott, the other newcomer along the back line, first learned on Thursday that he might be needed because Riley was suffering from a headache and other concussion symptoms.
Around midday Friday, Scott was told he would be in uniform. Then, about 15 minutes before pregame warm-ups at Qwest Field, he learned he would get his first start of the season – the 11th of his Sounders career.
“I think I’ve got enough years under my belt where I know how to prepare,” Scott said. “That’s one of the things that the coaches kind of hammer into us: You don’t know what’s going to happen when the actual game comes, so everybody has to be prepared.”
Schmid said he hopes Riley will be cleared to play again by Saturday, when the Sounders (0-2-1) return to Major League Soccer play at San Jose.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer