TUKWILA – One of the worst parts about a disappointing end to a season is the subsequent wait.
For Sounders FC, it has been exactly four months of wanting to prove the collapse at the end of 2013 was an anomaly, a setback unreflective of a proud and successful franchise.
But the taste of failure can’t fully go away until the next game — or perhaps more specifically, the next win — and the first chance comes in Saturday’s noon opener at CenturyLink Field against reigning MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City.
No surprise coach Sigi Schmid has said starting the season on a good note is “very important to us and to our team.”
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“We want to sort of start erasing the memories of last year,” he added.
The prominent story for the Sounders in recent months, and one of the key areas of focus Saturday, will be how Seattle’s new-look lineup performs for the first time. The newcomers, flush in every position, also share in their anticipation of a frenzied home crowd of 40,000.
“The most exciting thing, for sure, is to see the stadium full,” said midfielder Marco Pappa. “I know we have great fans here and we, as players, want to give the fans what they want.”
An important element to the Sounders’ mix was added Friday, as superstar Clint Dempsey returned to practice following a two-month loan with Fulham of the English Premier League and a midweek exhibition with the U.S. national team.
Schmid confirmed Dempsey will be suited up against Kansas City, but due to having played 90 minutes for the U.S. on Wednesday and 14 hours of travel Thursday, that role will almost certainly be off the bench.
“I’m looking forward to helping the team any way I can,” Dempsey said ahead of his third game in eight days. “Yeah, there will be a little bit of an adjustment period maybe getting to know some of the new guys, getting everybody on the same page, but I’m feeling good, my fitness levels are right, and it’s about us having a really good season and pushing and trying to win an MLS Cup.”
The wild card in the league’s opening weekend came in startling news Friday morning that the referees assigned to work Week 1 have been locked out by the organization that oversees officiating in the U.S. and Canada. The work stoppage stems from a contentious round of collective bargaining, and replacement referees have been assigned.
Alan Kelly, who has been a referee in World Cup qualifiers and Champions League games in Europe, will be the man in charge at CenturyLink Field.
“At the end of the day, what we try and tell our players is you have to accept the decisions that are made,” Schmid said as it relates to replacement refs.
“A foul is when the referee blows his whistle, it’s out of bounds when he blows his whistle, it’s a goal when he blows the whistle, and don’t anticipate anything else.”
• Sounders FC forward/midfielder Tristan Bowen is out with a thigh strain, but everyone else is expected to be available. Schmid did note, though, that left back Leo Gonzalez isn’t quite 100 percent back in his recovery from offseason groin surgery.
• MLS has implemented away goals as the tiebreaker in the conference semifinals and finals this season (the rule doesn’t apply, however, if there is overtime). The top tiebreaker in the league standings will remain total wins, but goal differential has become the second tiebreaker instead of goals scored, which is third.
|The Sounders have started each of their MLS seasons at home. They’ve lost two of the past three.|
|2012||Toronto FC||Win, 3-1|
|2011||LA Galaxy||Loss, 1-0|
|2009||New York||Win, 3-0|
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184