Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer spoke this week with USMNT coach Bruce Arena about his team's shorthanded situation, but Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris remained with the national side

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Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer admitted Friday he’d spoken to United States Men’s National Team coach Bruce Arena about having either Clint Dempsey or Jordan Morris returned early. But in the end, the depleted┬áSounders got throttled 3-0 by the Columbus Crew in Ohio on Wednesday minus two of their top attackers.

They now will also face the Houston Dynamo at CenturyLink Field in a Sunday rematch of their season opener without again having Dempsey or Morris. Compounding some obvious frustration for the Sounders, the national team doesn’t even play a World Cup qualifyer until taking on Trinidad & Tobago next Thursday, though it has a Saturday “friendly” against Venezuela.

Though Schmetzer didn’t reveal exact details about what was asked of Arena and what the response was, a shorthanded Sporting Kansas City squad was allowed to have defender Matt Besler loaned back from the national team on an “emergency” basis for Saturday’s game against Minnesota United. Sporting KC has a shortage of central defenders due to injury, though the Sounders are so depleted in forwards they were forced to give Seyi Adekoya his first MLS start at striker.

“Maybe they have a different relationship,” Schmetzer said of Sporting KC and the USMNT. “Who knows if he (Besler) is going to figure in any of the matches? There are a lot of details that I’m not aware of. We’re supportive of the national team. We’re supportive of Clint (Dempsey) and Jordan (Morris).,,this is an unusual circumstance with calling guys in early. So, I couldn’t really comment on what KC has done.

“But sure,” he added. “It would have been nice to have our guys. For sure.”

The Sounders, like other MLS teams, try to be as supportive as possible of national team duty, though the early call-in for USMNT players came at a trying time for them. Already dealing with six games in 23 days and health issues for several players, the Sounders were forced to go with an improvised back line against Columbus, Adekoya up top and then moved left back Joevin Jones up to the midfield after a hip flexor strain kept Harry Shipp aidelined.

It wasn’t pretty to watch and the Sounders essentially threw away another one of those road games they’ll eventually have to start winning if they’re to advance anyplace this season. The Sounders have just one road win in eight tries this season.

Right back Brad Evans, used sparingly against Columbus because the team was in the midst of three games in eight days, says the lack of road wins makes Sunday’s game at home against the first place Dynamo that much more critical for his 4-6-4 side. Evans last month called a home game against Salt Lake City a “must win” for the Sounders and said the Houston match is no different.

“To me, this is another must-win game,” he said. “If we’re not going to pick up points on the road, we’ve got to do it at home. And this is another one of those chances and opportunities for guys to right the ship.”

In the season opener in Houston, the Sounders got burned by numerous counter-attacks and took a 2-1 defeat. Naturally, when film preparations for Sunday’s contest began Friday, counter-attacks were a main subject as the Sounders try to contain Erick (Cubo) Torres, Romell Quioto and company better than they did the last time .

“They caught us a couple of times on the break and they’ll make you pay from five yards out, from 10 yards out, 20 yards out in the corner,” said Evans, who didn’t play in that game and missed the first two months of the 2017 campaign. “They’ve done it all season. Against good opponents too. So, they’ve proven that they can win games, tough games against conference opponents and out of conference opponents.”

Schmetzer said he still expects his team to play aggressively at home, but with better mental focus on preventing the counterstrikes that so hurt them back in March.

“It’s focus,” he said. “(Our) guys are with the ball and they’re looking at the goal, they’re looking at the target…they always have to look at ‘OK, where’s the outlet pass?’ as the ball transitions. Who’s the most likely Houston player to start the counterattack? And I want to stop it there.”

And he’ll have to stop it without his best attackers around. Adekoya is still the only fully healthy body available up top, while the Sounders are holding out hope Will Bruin might make a speedy recovery from his dislocated elbow of two weeks ago — though a start seems unlikely.

More likely, the Sounders again will have to dig deep with a lot less than their best.