Yesterday United States Men’s National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann released the official 30-man roster for his World Cup training camp and it includes three Seattle Sounders. The camp starts in Palo Alto, California tomorrow and already drama surrounds the selection. Sounders fans are both proud and anxious to see Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans, and DeAndre Yedlin rostered. Dempsey was always a lock, but Evans and Yedlin were on the bubble. Evans almost secured his spot during qualifying, but an injury suffered earlier in the MLS campaign put his position in doubt. Yedlin, though still young and improving, continues his meteoric rise in US soccer with this selection. The last note of interest to Seattle is that former Sounder Eddie Johnson was not selected. Johnson’s roller coaster career continues: selected for the World Cup and high flying back in 2006, he crashed and burned in European league play and missed the World Cup in 2010, then he enjoyed a career resurrection with Seattle in 2012 and 2013, but again will watch the Cup from his couch, just like the rest of us. Oh Eddie, pride goeth before a fall.
The selection of our Sounders means, though they will proudly represent our city at the international level, Seattle will not have them for at least three league games:
5/17: Home vs. Earthquakes
5/24: Whitecaps Away
5/31: Home vs. RSL
The official 23-man roster must be finalized on June 2nd. The players (definitely Dempsey, probably Evans) who make this final cut will also miss:
6/7: Chicago Away
6/28: DC United Away (this game takes place two days after the US’s final Group Stage game against Germany)
If the Stars and Stripes can somehow advance from the Group of Death, Dempsey and Evans could also miss:
7/5: Whitecaps Away
7/13: Home vs. Portland
I love the World Cup, I just love the Sounders more. This schedule sucks. The Sounders will be missing practically 30% of their starter during this stretch. And it seems likes poor scheduling by the league office, as three Cascadia Cup games happen during this window, and we know the league loves to pimp Cascadia. Additionally, the Sounders marketing team will open the full stadium for both the San Jose and Portland games. For a company that sells, first and foremost, entertainment, this is poor marketing. These games will be like an NFL preseason game where fans have to watch Tavaris Jackson hand off to Robert Turbin. Frankly, I am really tempted to cheer against the USMNT merely because of scheduling.
The MLS schedule is complicated, as it seems to punish ambitious MLS teams that roster world-class players. Unfortunately, the MLS schedule will always conflict with the World Cup as long as we play a summer schedule. But the recent talk of MLS converting to a schedule that mimics the rest of the world’s had me scared. I hate the idea of soccer played in the winter in northern cities like Montreal and Philadelphia (and they’d be none too pleasant at C-Link either), and MLS Commissioner Don Garber seems to agree. Just this past weekend there was snow warning in Colorado. In May. But the summer schedule contributes to the perception that MLS is a junior varsity league because we don’t do it like the big boys. Maybe we lack the tradition of the fall schedule here in the States, but soccer is a great summer sport. I love to go out under blue skies and support the boys in green (the current schedule is also conducive to very little fixture overlap with NFL games), but perennially losing top talent during the World Cup is less than ideal. The schedule inadvertently punishes teams, like the Sounders, that invest in international-caliber players.
But the Sounders should fine. We’ve built enough of a points bubble to weather the odd game off (see New England away). My faith in the front office is higher than at any previous time. I believe the roster Adrian, Chris and co. put together, Kenny Cooper, Marco Pappa, Obafemi Martins, is still above-average compared to most MLS teams. I am hoping for a modest ten points in the next six matches going into the Portland game. I have faith the boys left behind will see the Sounders through this tight stretch of matches.