TUKWILA, Wash. — The Seattle Sounders finished up training ahead of Sunday’s regular-season finale against Minnesota United, and the team is almost as healthy as they’ve been since the start of the season, when they ran out the same start XI in five games straight.
First the good news: Midfielder Nico Lodeiro went through full training all week, and seemed none the worse for wear after suffering a lower back injury in the game versus FC Dallas on Sept. 18. Lodeiro hasn’t played since that point and was fitted with a flak jacket to protect against the injury. He seems highly likely to feature in the game Sunday, though coach Brian Schmetzer — as is custom — was coy about his status.
“Nico’s gonna be fine,” Schmetzer said. “He’s available for selection.”
Victor Rodriguez, however, has been absent from the last two days of training, raising questions as to his status for the game. Schmetzer didn’t indicate after Friday’s training session that Rodriguez and Gustav Svennson (who missed Friday training, but went through full training Saturday) had any injury issues.
“They are fine, they are on their own programs,” Schmetzer said. “At this stage of the year we’re doing whatever it takes to keep players on the field.”
The game Sunday will be the first time that Roman Torres will return to CenturyLink Field since his suspension ended. He made a cameo appearance against San Jose, but is likely to start with the red card suspension of Xavier Arreaga. The constant rotation in the backline has been tough on the defense, though the team has two clean sheets in the last three games, and Torres has plenty of experience to mitigate potential rust and fitness issues.
“Roman’s got to step up now, he’s obviously served his suspension and he’s been working hard,” left back Brad Smith said “It’s a massive game but he’s played a lot of football in his time. It’s important to have some experience even if you’re lacking a bit of fitness.”
Minnesota United comes into the game in second place on tiebreakers, having qualified for the playoffs for the first time in their short history. They have the advantage of only needing a draw to stay ahead of the Sounders, though that result could leave them vulnerable to being passed by the LA Galaxy should they win on the road in Houston. Smith said he doesn’t think that much can be taken from the 1-1 draw between the two sides earlier this year. “It was a long time ago,” Smith said. “We watched some things that are relevant to the game on Sunday, but it’s a different outfit for them and a different outfit for us.
“For them, they like to get it and cross the ball early especially with their right back. ... So it’s just different tweaks from the last game.”
All Western Conference Decision Day games will kickoff simultaneously. The nationally televised broadcast will be the San Jose Earthquakes visiting the Portland Timbers. ... unconfirmed reports have the Sounders hosting their first round playoff game (should they secure a top four seed) on Saturday October 19 ... The Sounders don’t expect their to be football lines on the field for that playoff game, though the Seahawks have a home game on Sunday October 20.