Johnson questionable for Seattle’s playoff opener

Seattle Sounders forward Eddie Johnson might miss the first leg

of the MLS Western Conference semifinals against Real Salt Lake on

Friday with a hamstring strain but should be able to play in the

second leg on Nov. 8 in Utah.

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said Tuesday that Johnson’s injury

was less severe than first believed when he was forced to leave the

regular season finale on Sunday night against Los Angeles. Johnson

had an MRI on Monday and Schmid called the injury a ”hamstring

tweak.”

”We wanted to go easy with him today and then see where he’s at

tomorrow,” Schmid said. ”It’s slight. It’s not nearly as bad as

we had feared it might be. There’s an outside chance on Friday and

for sure the second game shouldn’t be a problem.”

Johnson left the match against the Galaxy late in the first

half. He said after the 1-0 loss that cost Seattle a shot at second

place in the final conference standings that his hamstring

tightened up on a number of runs earlier in the match and the smart

thing was not push it and make the injury worse.

”We had thought based off the way he was feeling the day after

that we didn’t think it was as bad and the MRI confirmed that,”

Schmid said.

Johnson’s had a breakout season in his return to MLS after

struggling to find success playing in Europe. Johnson led Seattle

with 14 goals in the regular season and his play was good enough to

earn a call-up to the U.S. national team for the first time in more

than two years. Johnson proved his value on the international stage

with two goals and an assist in World Cup qualifying wins over

Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala.

If Johnson can’t play, Sammy Ochoa could be the likely candidate

to start, although Schmid could shift his lineup and use David

Estrada or Steve Zakuani in an attacking position. Ochoa started

against Salt Lake on Oct. 17 when Johnson was returning off duty

with the U.S.

Should Johnson not be able to play on Friday it would be the

second straight year the Sounders start the playoffs short-handed.

Last year Mauro Rosales was injured in the regular season finale

against Chivas USA and did not play in Seattle’s semifinal loss to

Salt Lake.

”Certainly we missed Mauro and if Eddie can’t play we’ll miss

him but other guys have to step up and do the business,” Schmid

said.