Despite a slow start to the MLS season, the Sounders won't panic and rush the returns of top players from international duty and injury, according to coach Sigi Schmid.
TUKWILA — Help is coming.
Sounders FC has never had a worse three-game start and is tied for last place in the Western Conference, but the team will be getting a lift this week with the return of several top players.
Veterans Brad Evans and Shalrie Joseph have recovered from their calf injuries and were back in full training Monday.
Designated player Obafemi Martins is expected in Tuesday after playing with the Nigerian national team.
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Other international call-ups Eddie Johnson (U.S.) and Mario Martinez (Honduras) will be back later this week.
So Seattle should be at full strength for Saturday’s road game at Real Salt Lake, right?
Well, “a lot depends,” coach Sigi Schmid said.
Johnson will play in the U.S.’s World Cup qualifier at Mexico on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., while Martinez and Honduras play at Panama on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Martins has especially been a world traveler, flying from Spain to Seattle to Nigeria and back to Seattle again in the course of 12 days.
“It’s important that we are healthy and it’s important that we’re playing well as we go forward into the season,” Schmid said. “So to try and rush somebody back because we’re panicking or … because, ‘We don’t have a win yet,’ and then have them suffer an injury that takes them out for a long period of time makes no sense.”
There is also the April 2 start to a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Mexico’s Santos Laguna to consider with lineup decisions.
Joseph, for one, is itching for his Sounders debut. The DP midfielder, who was acquired in a preseason trade with Chivas USA, has been out about two months with a calf strain — an injury he said he aggravated by trying to rush back.
“I can’t explain in words how excited I am to get out there for the Sounders and wear that No. 21 on my back and represent these colors,” Joseph said. “They took a chance on me and I just want to repay that favor.”
Evans, who might shift from midfielder to right back this season, has also been out with a calf strain the past couple of weeks. The injury may have cost him time with the U.S. national team, as well, but his focus is in Seattle.
“First and foremost, we have to right the ship here,” Evans said.
Top pick Zavaleta debuts
Rookie Eriq Zavaleta, who has been switching from forward to defender, saw his first action in the final minutes of Saturday’s loss at San Jose.
“It was good,” said Zavaleta, Seattle’s top pick in January’s MLS SuperDraft. “It was a tough game to go into with the circumstances and tough to leave the game with your head up, even if it’s your debut, because of losing the game.
“It’s always good to get the first one out of the way. … I feel like it’s something to build on, for sure.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.