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Updated Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 08:16 PM

Sounders roster almost full strength after players return from duty on national teams

By Joshua Mayers
Seattle Times staff reporter

TUKWILA — A month's absence had its consequences as Sounders FC welcomed back a few players from national-team duty the past few days.

Brad Evans noticed it during a 5-on-5 scrimmage drill Saturday.

"(I was with) three guys I'd never met before," said the midfielder, who had been with the U.S. men's national team since early January.

Also back from international action are forward Eddie Johnson (USA) and defender Adam Johansson (Sweden). Midfielder Mario Martinez, who helped lead Honduras to a World Cup qualifying win against the U.S. on Wednesday, is set to join the Sounders next week when training camp heads to Tucson, Ariz.

With the roster nearing full strength, Seattle will start its most vital preseason work in the next couple of weeks.

"The most important thing for us now is just to really put the pieces of the team together — to work now on our team shape defensively, to work on our offensive cohesion and understanding, to get the pieces of the puzzle on the field together," said coach Sigi Schmid.

Some of the biggest adjustments will come for the most recent arrivals.

Johnson, in particular, will have to get used to a new forward partner since Fredy Montero was loaned to Colombia's Millonarios for the 2013 season.

"You know it's kind of frustrating for me," Johnson said, "because I was looking forward to playing with him and establishing a better relationship on the field than we had last season. ... We all know what he can do, we all know what he's meant to this club, and I was shocked when I heard the news because I thought when we did play some games together and we jelled, we were untouchable."

Elsewhere, Johansson was the closest defender to center back Jeff Parke, who was traded in the offseason to the Philadelphia Union.

"I mean he was a really good player," Johansson said. "I liked playing with him. Hopefully they find someone new that can take his place."

Evans, one of six remaining "original" MLS Sounders from Year 1, said the roster moves are just part of the natural ebbs and flows of soccer: "You're going to have a group of guys together for a number of years, and then things end up changing."

Schmid: Joseph deal unlikely

Accomplished MLS veteran Shalrie Joseph, who is under contract with Chivas USA, has practiced with the Sounders the past two days, but Schmid said Saturday that a trade for the high-priced midfielder is "probably not going to happen."

"It's very evident that he hasn't trained in a while," the coach added. "It's evident that he's very much behind physically, as well. He still needs to make improvements in that regard. You can see little sparks of what Shalrie has brought over the years — that's why he was a Best XI player — but he's still a ways away from that form."

NOTE

• Schmid was unamused with tweets from Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson on Tuesday, joking that the Sounders coach might have rather attended a food sampling than an exhibition game. Asked if he was upset with the tweets, Schmid tersely said: "Merritt is an adult. He's responsible for his actions." The Timbers insisted no malice was intended.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com


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