The Seattle Sounders could field a reinforced lineup this Sunday at CenturyLink Field when Orlando City comes to town, as strikers Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins might finally be back healthy for a squad that has experienced an epic slide over the past two months.
Martins has not played for Seattle since their U.S. Open Cup fixture on June 17 when he injured his groin. Despite optimism from manager Sigi Schmid last week, the Nigerian missed Sunday's match at LA Galaxy but could make his long awaited return against the Lions. Dempsey, who was unavailable due to USMNT duties at the Gold Cup before injuring his hamstring after only one match back in the side, could also make his return Sunday.
Without their star striker duo, Seattle has suffered through a terrible run of form.
The Sounders have posted a 1-8 record in their last nine MLS matches, claiming just three points out of a possible 27 over that stretch. What's worse, Seattle have netted just three goals in that span while being shutout six times. Despite this run of futility, the Sounders still find themselves sitting in sixth place--and in a playoff position--in the Western Conference thanks to a very strong start to the campaign.
Unfortunately for Orlando City, the Lions could be catching a limping Seattle at a bad time, as Dempsey and Martins are both back in training and could be ready to go this weekend.
In Dempsey and Martins, Seattle would be getting a boost from a tandem that has combined for 14 goals and seven assists this season in 23 combined appearances. Facing Seattle's star striker pairing – Dempsey and Martins have combined for 55 league goals since joining Seattle in 2013 – would pose a much bigger threat to an Orlando defense than replacements Lamar Neagle and Chad Barrett, who have managed only a goal apiece as stopgaps during Seattle's slide.
Orlando City's defense registered a clean sheet last week against a lowly Philadelphia Union side, but before that the Lions had not been in a great run themselves. In a six-match stretch between their league win against Colorado on June 25 and the 0-0 draw against Philly on Saturday, the Lions let in 16 goals while losing four of those matches and winning just once.
Although their respective statuses for Sunday afternoon aren't certain yet, the two forwards would not be ideal match-ups for an OCSC back line dealing with numerous injuries on the heels of such a porous run.
"As we sit here now, we don't know what the [Seattle] team will be," City manager Adrian Heath said Tuesday on his weekly call-in show. "They could have as many as six changes from the team that played in LA on Sunday. So we don't know what's going to come."
Heath mentioned new additions such as Nelson Valdez and Roman Torres as possible changes for Seattle as well, but the addition of either Dempsey, Martins or both up top would be a massive improvement for the Sounders, and one that would mean the Lions would be dealing with a different team than the one that has made headlines for its run of losses since late June.