Even though the Seattle Sounders haven’t exactly been dire on defense so far in 2017, injuries have forced head coach Brian Schmetzer to constantly shuffle the backline and keep them from developing any real chemistry or rhythm. Roman Torres has been out for a few weeks, Brad Evans hasn’t played a single game so far, and Oniel Fisher has had a persistent hamstring issue that won’t seem to go away permanently.
All of these issues, and more, continue to plague the Sounders as they head to Los Angeles this weekend. Schmetzer also may be considering remixing his attack options, considering how poor the Sounders were in front of goal against Vancouver.
As of Friday, Oniel Fisher is considered a game time decision by the team, even though he didn’t train with the team in order to get his hamstring issue looked at. Chad Marshall has also apparently been suffering from a “sore back” this week, and was also considered a game time decision by Schmetzer. Those two are probably the most likely to at least travel to LA, but we likely won’t know their true status until the lineups are released. “We would take either one of them back if they were able to,” Schmetzer said, “we’re doing everything humanly possible to get them on the field.”
Roman Torres finished the protocol for the hamstring injury he suffered against San Jose, but it’s clear that he’s still not 100%. Schmetzer called Torres a gametime decision, but he hasn’t participated in a full training session with the team since the injury. Given the circumstances, Torres’ best shot is probably to make the bench—but I doubt he’s ready to go by Sunday.
Brad Evans, who is still not back from his calf injury, seems to be getting closer and closer to a return. He’s been working with medical and training staff for weeks now, and Schmetzer said he’s “getting closer to his goal.”
Without both Evans and Fisher, the Sounders again have a huge question mark at the right back position. Combine that with the potential of Marshall being out, and the defense is looking thin across the board. Early in the season, Gustav Svensson played right back for a couple games—but it’s not controversial to say that he’s far better at center back. Schmetzer said that Jordy Delem, who has started at the position once this season, got some reps in training this week, as did Henry Wingo. Delem has started once for the Sounders at the position, while Wingo has only come on as a substitute in a wide attacking role.
Forgotten man Aaron Kovar has finally been back in full training with the Sounders this week after offseason groin surgery kept him off the pitch. A late season collarbone injury in 2016 sidelined him for the eventual Cup run as well. Schmetzer said Kovar is “really close” to being fit enough to play, and that he’ll have “to triple check that he’s fully, 100% medically cleared.” Even if he is deemed fit enough to travel, a bench spot could be a reach unless injuries open up a spot for him. Schmetzer said Kovar “would have to come and fight his way into the team,” which could take some time, considering he’s only fully practiced a few times at this point.
Where the changes in defense have been almost entirely due to injuries, Schmetzer may be considering some changes on the other side of the pitch after his starting XI failed to find the net in Vancouver. Will Bruin, who has come on as a second-half substitute and scored twice so far this year, could work his way into the starting lineup in LA. Schmetzer said that Bruin “will probably see a little bit more playing time,” but didn’t say whether or not he plans to start the veteran forward.
Bruin has made five appearances for the Sounders this season, all as a substitute. He’s only seen the pitch for 51 total minutes, but he scored two goals in that span. Schmetzer said he plans to give Bruin more minutes than he has yet; he came on in the 68th against Vancouver, which was his longest appearance to date. So if Bruin doesn’t start, it’s reasonable to think he could come in at the start of the second half or soon after.
Schmetzer was coy about whether or not he thinks Bruin has earned a spot in the starting XI, but he admitted the need for guys who can score goals. The Sounders had 15 total shots against the Whitecaps, but only one hit the back of the net—from Bruin. “Will has worked hard, he’s been a good team guy,” Schmetzer said, “you like to reward guys like that for good performances. We’ll see what happens.”