Orlando City-Sounders Preview
The Seattle Sounders have been a different side with Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, which is something they're counting on as the stars near a return.
Along with Dempsey and Martins, the Sounders could have their international newcomers for the first time as they try to end a historic skid Sunday against visiting Orlando City.
Seattle looked as though it might defend its Supporters' Shield crown when Dempsey and Martins combined for 14 goals and the team had a MLS-leading 29 points on June 13.
However, things began to unravel three days later against Portland in a U.S. Open Cup match. Dempsey wound up being suspended three matches for grabbing a referee's notebook and tearing it to pieces in that 3-1 loss, while Martins suffered an adductor strain.
The Sounders (10-12-2) led the MLS with 23 goals prior to that match, but have since totaled four while going 1-8-1 across all competitions.
Making matters worse, forward Chad Barrett sustained a hamstring injury immediately after ending a club-record 363-minute scoreless drought in last Sunday's 3-1 loss at Los Angeles. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is also questionable with a nagging hamstring injury.
Dempsey has played once since June 16 after leaving to compete for the United States in the Gold Cup and straining his hamstring, while Martins hasn't played since the Open Cup loss.
Seattle has gone 9-4-1 with at least one of its two standouts on the field. Now both might be back - though Martins' return is seen as far more likely - as the squad looks to end a franchise-worst five-game skid.
Still in position to qualify for the playoffs, the Sounders have brought in midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz from Spain, striker Nelson Valdez from Germany and central defender Roman Torres from Colombia over the past two weeks.
"We've obviously been pretty active and pretty busy and hopefully now (coach Sigi Schmid) has some more choices and what he does with them is going to ultimately lay with him," general manager Garth Lagerwey told the league's official website.
Torres, who scored in Panama's loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup semifinals, should immediately help a back end that has given up six goals over the past two matches.
The Sounders will now have to deal with Cyle Larin and Kaka as they face the Lions for the first time. Larin has a team-high 11 goals, while Kaka has scored nine. Orlando City (7-10-7), though, has scored once over its last two games after scoring eight in its previous two.
After allowing 11 goals over their previous three matches, the Lions played to a scoreless home draw with Philadelphia on Aug. 8. However, they lost rookie defender Conor Donovan for the remainder of the season after he tore the ACL in his left knee.
The Lions are in a tight race as they try to reach the Eastern Conference playoffs in their first MLS season, but they've gone just 1-4-2 over their last seven matches. They also have just one victory over their last eight (1-5-2) on the road.
"There's no denying that (the Sounders are) a better team with Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey, Alonso and plus the guys that they've signed," coach Adrian Heath told the team's official website. "So, it's important that we start well."