By JOSE M. ROMERO
The team that Blaise N'kufo will suit up for, perhaps as soon as tonight, might not be the team the Swiss international figured he'd line up with.
Injuries are a part of that, but N'kufo will be a veteran among plenty of youngsters when the Seattle Sounders take the field against D.C. United. N'Kufo is active for tonight's match, but he won't be in the starting lineup.
"We can't expect him to be the savior," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid told the Seattle Times.
N'kufo's arrival should have been the big news of the week for Seattle, but it's being overshadowed by two other developments in Sounders camp: GM Adrian Hanauer's pronouncement that designated player Freddie Ljungberg is not off-limits in talks with other teams about moving him, and the Sounders taking a long look at a younger lineup in the face of a season that has not gone well.
Ljungberg did not travel with the team to D.C., according to reports, because of a bad ankle. His production has fallen off, with only three assists and no goals in 15 games, and his contract expires in November. The Sounders tried Miguel Montano, Mike Seamon and Nathan Sturgis in the midfield in a 1-1 draw at home against FC Dallas.
Not to say that the time for the veterans is up, but Schmid might be in evaluation mode — looking at what he has off his bench in game conditions to determine if these are players that have a future with the club, and in the process the veterans sit out.
Montano, 19, has shown flashes of brilliance but didn't help his own cause with a red card in the second half. With a man down, Seattle didn't have enough to hold off Dallas in the closing minutes.
"I thought we put the right team out there. I thought we played with a lot of energy, we played well," Schmid said after Sunday's game. "We scored a good goal in the first half and had some other good changes. The red card had a big impact on this game. They (Dallas) played well and ended up scoring a great goal."