The hardest hit that Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller received Wednesday against Boca Juniors may have come from new teammate Jeff Parke.
With a lofted ball descending near the goal, Parke went in to clear, Keller went up to catch, and the players bumped before Keller got control with no harm done.
“You get on the same page of the players that you’re around all the time,” Parke said the next day. “It’s important; especially as a defender because it’s all communication and realizing where everybody likes to be, or likes to play. That was just a situation where it was a 50-50 ball, and you’re always told to just clear it. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”
The bigger deal could come today, when the Sounders shift from international friendly to the serious business of league play at Colorado.
The Rapids are one point ahead of the Sounders in the Western Conference, and they feature several offensive weapons.
“Omar Cummings is a forward who can cause teams problems because of his speed and his pace, and he’s also quick,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “... Conor Casey is a hard-working, big-target guy; so you have got to be aware of him as well. Pablo Mastroeni and (Jeff) Larentowicz both have good shots from distances, so you have got to be aware of that. (Mehdi) Ballouchy is a little bit more hot and cold; but he’s a player that, when he is on, he can certainly put together some good combinations. And he is dangerous on set pieces as well.”
That’s a lot for Sounders defenders to keep an eye on – especially those so new to their roles that they also have to keep the other eye out for their own goalkeeper.
Yet, when the Sounders kick off at mile-high Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, they will need to patch in replacements for central defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso.
Hurtado might be lost for the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, while Alonso could be out through the league’s World Cup break due to an aggravation of a quadriceps injury.
Parke made his long-delayed Sounders’ debut Wednesday in place of Hurtado. And he said those 45 minutes should prove useful if he gets the call again today.
“I hadn’t played a game in a while, so it’s good to get out and get the flow on the field,” he said. “You could play three weeks worth of practices, but then you get out on the field and it feels totally different: the fitness, the play, the flow of the game. It’s good to get out there, yeah.”
When Alonso limped off in the opening minutes, he was replaced by Brad Evans, who has experience at forward, midfield and defense. Patrick Ianni also can bring a defensive mentality to midfield.
“Obviously, you don’t want to lose guys like Jhon and Ozzie,” Keller said. “But I think guys have shown that the opportunity is there, and they’re up for the task.”
They may have to be because the Sounders also have longer-term offensive problems to solve. Until breaking through for three goals against Boca, Seattle had managed a total of two goals over its previous five league games.
“Of course, the offense always should be sharp, but we need our defense there as well,” midfielder Freddie Ljungberg said. “We have players that can fill in. ... We got Parke not long ago, but he’s proven himself in this league before, and I hope he can play well. And we have other players as well that can fill in. But mostly I’m sad for (Hurtado and Alonso). On a more personal note, it’s hard to sit on the sidelines.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer