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Nicolas Lodeiro’s return makes lineup decisions a little easier

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But head coach Brian Schmetzer hopes that Uruguayan ends his trend of yellow-card accumulation

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

With just three matches to go in the regular MLS season, the Seattle Sounders are one win away from clinching a spot in the 2016 MLS Cup playoffs. Of those three matches, the first is likely the easiest—in two days, they play last-place and already playoff-eliminated Houston Dynamo at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders got a huge boost on Monday, as both Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro returned to training after being released by their respective national teams.

Head coach Brian Schmetzer said having those two players back put “a smile on my face.”

While having both back is huge (after all, Morris the club’s top scorer this year), the return of Lodeiro was both a pleasant surprise and a huge lift to the team’s chances. The Uruguayan playmaker has been central in the club’s late season surge with Schmetzer at the helm. Lodeiro, sort of ironically, returned early because he’s suspended for Uruguay’s next match due to yellow-card accumulation—the same reason he missed the Sounders’ road win over Vancouver last week. So even though this time around it helped the Sounders, Schmetzer said he hopes Lodeiro’s trend of efficiently picking up yellow cards doesn’t continue.

Schmetzer pointed out that not all of Lodeiro’s yellow cards in MLS were due mostly to little parts of his game that are punished more severely by MLS referees than those in other leagues. “I think he just has to get use the refereeing in this league, and the way it works, I expect that number to drop quickly.”

Since Lodeiro just played about 60 minutes for Uruguay last week and arrived back in Seattle on Sunday, he should be ready to go on Wednesday against Houston.

Alvaro Fernandez, on the other hand, may not be ready to go by midweek thanks to the hamstring strain he sustained early in last week’s match against Vancouver. Schmetzer’s only comments on Fernandez were that “he was involved in partial training, so we’re trying to ramp him up as safely and as quickly as we can.” The coach would not comment on whether or not he expects the player to be available for Houston.

Flaco’s replacement against Houston could be Herculez Gomez, who ended up on the right side of midfield against Vancouver. But Schmetzer said team selection is done “by committee” and that the Sounders “still have some choices.” Aside from Gomez, Schmetzer mentioned Oalex Anderson, who has yet to play much of a role under Schmetzer despite getting a handful of starts and substitute appearances earlier this season under Sigi Schmid. But Schmetzer is keen on Anderson’s abilities, and said the young forward is still getting used to the league. “He wants to learn, he’s got some good starting points that go along with his outright speed, and he can shoot the ball pretty hard too.”

Even though Wednesday’s match is against Houston, Schmetzer said he and his staff aren’t taking them lightly—because it’s a “must-win game.” He said despite the results, he respects Houston coach Wade Barrett, and expects him to prepare for this match just like any other. And that’s what the Sounders are going to do too: “I’m going to do everything with Djimi, Ante, Dave, the physical side of things to prepare our team. We want to go out and put on a good performance.”