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Sounders could have Morris and Lodeiro back for Houston game

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Brian Schmetzer “expects” Morris to be back, but said that Lodeiro just a “possibility”

Soccer: International Friendly-Canada at USA Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Even though they’ve been on an absolute tear in recent weeks with their four-match winning streak, the Seattle Sounders probably need the extra time off that the upcoming bye weekend provides more than some. Especially if they’re able to get their internationals—Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro in particular—back for next Wednesday’s home match against the Houston Dynamo.

Head coach Brian Schmetzer said having the weekend off is both good and bad: the players available want to keep playing and keep the momentum going, but the coaching staff is happy to have the time to get players with minor injuries back to match fitness.

The initial concern with the timing of the international break and bye week was that some of the Sounders’ key players would be unable to make it back for the mid-week match against Houston next week. Sports Illustrated’s Brian Straus reported that Jurgen Klinsmann might release Morris prior to the USMNT’s friendly against New Zealand, which takes place the day before the Sounders’ match. Schmetzer said on Wednesday that he doesn’t know for sure, but he “expects” Morris to be back in time to be available against Houston. Regarding Lodeiro, Schmetzer said that an early return for him is just “a possibility” at this point. Unlike the USA, Uruguay is actually playing in 2018 World Cup qualifying matches on this break, including one against Colombia the day before the Houston match.

As for Román Torres, who is highly regarded by the Panama national team of which he is captain, Schmetzer said that he didn’t approach the Panama coach or federation about not calling him up for this round of friendly matches. But he said that he loves having Torres around the training ground and that he thinks “Román wants to be here.”

Andreas Ivanschitz, who was a late scratch in Vancouver on Sunday due to a slight neck issue, trained in full on Wednesday and is “okay” according to Schmetzer. The situation seems a little worse for Flaco Fernandez, who came off after less than 10 minutes against Vancouver with a left hamstring strain. Schmetzer called it a “tricky” situation as of Wednesday. It’s also unclear if Joevin Jones will be available, as he’s currently with Trinidad & Tabago for a pair of Caribbean Cup qualifiers on Oct. 5 and 11.

The last major question mark regarding availability against Houston next week is Brad Evans, who was sent off under questionable circumstances in Vancouver. Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey is expected to reveal to the media after Thursday’s training session whether or not the club will be appealing the red card.

Schmetzer said that he had a private conversation with Evans about the incident, the gist of which he also told the entire team after the film session. “The playoffs are coming, so we have to be prepared to make sure that all of the players stay on the field. We need to make sure that we understand that in the heat of the moment, we have to remain calm.” The coach also had a private conversation with Lodeiro about the same thing, due to the Uruguayan’s suspension against Vancouver for yellow card accumulation.

Schmetzer also noted that after talking with Evans, he believes his captain when he said that his intent didn’t warrant the sending off he received. “I also believe Brad when he tells me that he was three inches from his face. If Brad really wanted to do something, it would have happened.” Nevertheless, the message that Schmetzer wanted his players to get was that they should never do anything to give the referee a reason to show a red card.

Even if a number of these players are unable to make it into the starting XI next week, whether due to injury or suspension or international duty, Schmetzer learned an important lesson after tinkering with his formation against Vancouver. “I believe in our system, I learned a little something on Sunday about sticking with our 4-2-3-1.” He said that because the team was without Lodeiro, he changed things up in attempt to get the best out of the players he had available. But after seeing how well the team played after changing back to the formation he’s rigidly implemented since taking over the team, don’t expect anymore tinkering from Schmetzer this season.