Clint Dempsey should return Saturday after missing last week’s match for the birth of his fourth child. Obafemi Martins is still recovering from surgery on his broken nose, but he should be available as an impact substitute.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year if you’re an international soccer fan — less so if you’re a Major League Soccer aficionado.
The Women’s World Cup is in full swing in Canada, and the Copa América kicked off Thursday in Chile. The United States’ U-20 national team has advanced to the quarterfinals of its World Cup, and the senior version will defend its Gold Cup title next month.
For fans, this means nonstop action, learning new flags and figuring out where, exactly, Trindad and Tobago is located.
For MLS teams, that means dealing with international absences.
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The Sounders will be without Guatemalan national team call-up Marco Pappa, who has scored two goals in Seattle’s past three games, when they host FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night. And that might just be the beginning, as Pappa, Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans have all been named to provisional Gold Cup rosters ahead of next month’s tournament.
“That’s just the way it is in the summer,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said this week. “Our fixtures increase because of Open Cup, then with the way we are with our national program, their tournaments are in the summer. … That’s when you get depleted. It’s incumbent upon the guys who get their opportunities to play well.”
Seattle, which enters the weekend in first place in the Western Conference with 26 points and a plus-nine goal differential, has acquitted itself reasonably well despite a recent run of injuries and international call-ups. The Sounders were unbeaten in four games before last weekend’s loss to Sporting Kansas City — and even that was mostly written off thanks to a controversial late penalty call.
Dempsey should return Saturday after missing last week’s match for the birth of his fourth child. Though strike partner Obafemi Martins is still recovering from surgery on his broken nose, he should be available as an impact substitute, if nothing else. Even without Pappa, the Sounders are approaching full strength.
But the team’s first match against Dallas — a 0-0 tie March 28 — underlined the impact of even a handful of absences and gave a preview as to what July might look like.
For March’s Western Conference semifinal rematch, Dempsey and Martins were hurt and Pappa was with the Guatemalan national team. Dallas was missing Blas Perez, Moises Hernandez and Mauro Diaz. The match at Toyota Stadium ended in a scoreless draw.
It was the first game in MLS history without a shot on goal in 90 minutes.
And Dallas, which hasn’t won in over a month, could be without some regular contributors again Saturday. Tesho Akindele earned an inaugural Canadian national team call-up for its World Cup qualifiers, and Je-Vaughn Watson was red-carded in FCD’s 0-0 draw in San Jose last weekend.
“It’s a little uncertain: Is Hernandez with the Guatemalan national team or not?” Schmid said. “What is Atiba Harris going to do? Is he going to St. Kitts or not? There are a couple of open-ended questions there.”
Welcome to summer in MLS, where plenty of big-picture questions go unanswered until fall.