World Cup roster spots could be on the line when the surging Sounders square off against the struggling Union. That's why we'll be watching, and that's why you should too.
A FEW GAMES COULD LAY CLAIM
May 01, 2014
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to being the Must-See MLS match this week: Eastern Conference top dogs Sporting Kansas City and Columbus go head to head; the New York-FC Dallas clash features a red-hot Bradley Wright-Phillips; and Landon Donovan will take aim at the all-time goal record when Los Angeles heads to Colorado.
After consider our options, however, we've opted for a fourth match: Philadelphia at Seattle.
No matter how exciting MLS is over the next few months, it’s going to take a back seat to that big quadrennial tournament this summer in Brazil. The World Cup is the reason behind that lingering tingling sensation you’ve had for the past few weeks, and this match has what you need to soothe it for a few hours.
Why? Not just because the Sounders and Clint Dempsey
are tearing up the league right now, but because it features players trying to earn their way onto the U.S. national team’s final roster. So flip on the Saturday night showdown (10 p.m. ET, CenturyLink Field), and get ready for a small taste of Brazil.
ANY SEATS LEFT?
Two upcoming dates loom large for the U.S. national team. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has to name his 30-man provisional roster by May 13, and the bigger deadline comes on June 2 when the final 23-player list is due.
There’s a (very, very small) chance that four players from these two teams will suit up in South America. It would probably take the loss of multiple limbs to keep Dempsey off the field (and even then he’s a maybe), but the next three are up in the air: Philadelphia’s Maurice Edu, and Seattle’s Brad Evans
and DeAndre Yedlin.
Klinsmann indicated last week that he had pretty much made up his mind on the 30-man roster
, and while a few good weeks won’t outweigh two-plus years of evaluation, it certainly helps to be in form.
That f-word (form) is the issue for Evans, who hasn’t started since March 15 after injuring his c-word (calf). Two substitute appearances in the past two weeks have him back in line for more playing time, and Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said he has been in contact with Klinsmann about Evans’ recovery.
"What we are trying to do now is build his fitness back,” Schmid told the club’s website
. “And I know Brad's mentality, he will give you everything he has when he steps out on the field. And I know my mentality with Brad is that I tend to push him sometimes. I didn't want to put myself or him out there in a situation where gets pushed too hard and causes a reoccurrence. After a full week of training I hope to see him again next week against Philly."
While Schmid usually deploys Evans in midfield, he gave him a run at right back with the reserves on Sunday, an indication that he’s looking to get Evans in the groove at the spot he held down during the U.S. qualifying run.
It’s a decent bet that Evans makes the squad, but the odds are longer for Yedlin, his 20-year-old teammate (and Seattle’s starting right back). Yedlin is an outsider even for the 30-man roster, but there’s a slim chance Klinsmann pulls a shocker to gives this starlet some experience on the big stage. It’ll be interesting to see how Schmid handles that position in the games ahead.
At any rate, Yedlin, Evans, and the rest of the Sounders will try to cover up the dirty little secret of their recent strong performances. They’ve allowed eight goals in the past four games, but a date with a Philly side that has just one goal in three games might be just what the doctor ordered.
SOUNDERS AT FULL STRIDE
In fact, Dempsey has as many goals (eight) as the Union’s top five scorers combined. Seven of those have come in the past four games, and in his only scoreless match during that run, he assisted on Obafemi Martins’ late winner against Chivas. So, in short, Deuce is dealin’ right now.
And it’s largely up to Edu to put a stop to that.
While form is a problem for Evans, it’s a blessing for Edu, who went from U.S. regular to invisible man after an unproductive stint at Stoke City. But since returning to MLS this season, he has been a solid presence in central midfield—momentum he hopes to parlay into a national team spot behind Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.
Edu’s late charge could still use a boost
, and this match gives him every opportunity to impress. The Sounders like to attack right up the middle
, and that means through Edu. You don’t get a much better test in MLS play than trying to stop Dempsey, Martins, and Osvaldo Alonso.
DOOP-LESS IN PHILADELPHIA
There hasn’t been much to DOOP
about in Philly lately amidst the Union’s attacking struggles. The club dealt budding star Jack McInerney to Montreal for former No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wenger (one goal), and they’ve also got Conor Casey and former Seattle fan favorite Sebastien Le Toux (two goals) up top.
In the midfield, the three big offseason acquisitions have yielded mixed results. Cristian Maidana has been slow to adjust, while Edu has played well and Vincent Nogueira has shown promise. And after saying that his club is in need of more creativity at the attacking end, Edu (two goals) indicated that he might be more active offensively.
“Before, I was playing box-to-box but starting a little bit deeper and timing my runs from there,” Edu told Philly Soccer News. “Maybe I should start a little bit higher, so that way going forward we may have a little bit more numbers and hopefully that can lead to more opportunities.”
Playing higher up the field might be playing with fire against the Sounders, but if Edu shines, you can bet Klinsmann will take notice.
This is Mike McCall’s second cap for American Soccer Now. Tell him what you thought about it in the comments below, and follow him on Twitter.