TUKWILA, Wash. — By an unofficial headcount, the Seattle Sounders will likely be missing seven of their 26 contracted players for at least the coming week. A combination of injuries and World Cup call-ups may mean that the Sounders have exactly 16 available outfield players when they host Real Salt Lake May 26.
The latest shoe to drop was the partially torn plantar fascia of forward and leading scorer Will Bruin, which Brian Schmetzer announced after training Thursday.
“You guys know by now that I kind of use tough kid as a euphemism for there to be a little humor in our media scrums,” Schmetzer said. “But Will actually is a really tough kid because he’s got a partial tear in his plantar fascia and it’s another considerable injury. We’re not talking about days. We’re talking about weeks.”
Schmetzer said Bruin injured the connective tissue in his foot during the Toronto FC match, and acknowledged that it would take a dramatically accelerated recovery for Bruin to play against RSL.
The news was compounded by the official confirmation that internationals Nicolas Lodeiro, Roman Torres and Gustav Svensson had all left the country to join their respective national teams with the opening of the World Cup looming next month.
Even those players are banged up. Lodeiro has a broken bone in his foot which he is actively trying to rehab while surviving the cut as Uruguay looks to remove three men from its provisional 26-man roster, while Torres is nursing a hamstring strain with his personal doctor in Colombia.
While the possibility of keeping Svensson may have been tempting, Schmetzer said releasing the Swede was only fair. MLS teams were given a waiver by FIFA to keep players until May 28, but most leagues are forced to release players by May 20.
“The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world,” Schmetzer said. “We’re actually fortunate in some ways. This is a problem that we’ve had throughout our career. We’ve always had guys going away on national team for qualifiers, for World Cup 2014. That’s a sign that we’re a big club and we have big players.
“Because Roman is rehabbing in Colombia with his personal doctor and wasn’t set to feature and because Nico is going to Uruguay to try and make that squad, I felt it was only fair because Gustav has been a very good foot soldier — he played three games in a week, hard — I made the decision to let him go because the World Cup is a big deal. I want Gustav to be a starter in some World Cup games for Sweden. I think he’s deserved that. He’s earned that right, so that is a decision the club made.”
Meanwhile, injuries on the home front will continue to force Schmetzer’s hand from a lineup perspective. The loss of Jordan Morris for the season to an ACL tear back in February means Seattle has only two traditional choices at forward: Clint Dempsey or Lamar Neagle.
In the midfield, Osvaldo Alonso has a strain in his left quad (it had been the right that held him out the first month and a half of the season). Victor Rodriguez is still recovering from a knee arthroscopy and did not participate in drills during training, but the club said he was on the road to recovery.
Assuming there are no other injuries, the Sounders would have exactly the number of players they’d need to field an 18 without having to use a third goalkeeper.
The only good injury news for the Sounders is that Kim Kee-hee, forced to be subbed off against Portland with a gash on his head, is otherwise injury free and is not in the concussion protocol.
Schmetzer said the club was “perplexed” by the variety of injuries suffered by its players, stating that he felt the problem had nothing to do with the departure of former High Performance Director Dave Tenney for the Orlando Magic in September, or the arrival of replacement Damian Roden, who joined from Stoke City in the offseason.
“We’re very confident (in our approach),” Schmetzer said. “The injuries, again, are very specific, different ones. It’s not just one. We’re very happy with Damian, he’s got an excellent record, he’s worked in the EPL, that’s a higher level than Dave. It’s unfortunate that he’s come in and we’ve had this rash of uncommon injuries. Dave Tenney did a good job when he was here but we had injuries back then. That’s a part of the game.”
If there is any positive to the situation, Schmetzer said, it would be that the remaining players know full well who must provide a positive result against Real Salt Lake.
“That’s the message I gave them today,” Schmetzer said. “‘This is it. This is who we are for the next little bit, so let’s get out and get after it.’ They’re all cognizant of it. They all know it. They all know the challenges we face, they see our record in the standings.”
Here are the players who seem certain to be healthy for next weekend:
Goalkeepers: Stefan Frei, Bryan Meredith, Calle Brown
Defenders: Chad Marshall, Kim Kee-hee, Nouhou, Kelvin Leerdam, Jordan McCrary, Tony Alfaro, Waylon Francis,
Midfielders: Magnus Wolff Eikrem, Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan, Handwalla Bwana, Jordy Delem, Henry Wingo, Harry Shipp, Lamar Neagle*
Forwards: Clint Dempsey
*Neagle can also play forward but is a winger by trade