The Seattle Sounders returned to training Tuesday, preparing for what could be a defining stretch of the season. Having passed their first test over the weekend with aplomb, the focus now turns to Los Angeles FC, currently at the top of the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.
LAFC have been killing teams, posting a +16 goal differential on their way to a MLS best 6-0-1 start. While the prospect of matching up with the top team in the league is obviously an intriguing one from a fan and media perspective, the Sounders are attempting to put the game in its proper context, given it is still early in the season.
“It’s MLS, it’s a long season, there’s going to be lots of these tough weeks,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “The hype will be the two undefeated teams [Houston Dynamo are also undefeated]. How do we manage expectations in that game ... I think our guys will be up for it, for sure.
“We’re going to take this game and do the same normal routine. Scout our opponent, we’re going to work on our tactics and put on a good performance. I know the players are excited to get up for this game; to play against [Carlos] Vela, play against [Diego] Rossi, to play against [Tyler] Miller, our old friend.”
One player who may especially be looking forward to the challenge is midfielder Victor Rodriguez, who was among the many injured players last spring during the Sounders’ injury crisis.
“We are excited to play this game,” Rodriguez said. “It was tough for me; I felt really bad because I remember I had to watch the game in the VIP [section], and it was frustrating for me, and hopefully this weekend I can enjoy with my teammates and enjoy the atmosphere.”
Gustav Svensson is acutely aware of the dangers that LAFC pose, as a participant in both games last year that the Sounders lost 1-0 each time.
“You always want to play as high a level as possible,” Svensson said. “It’s always challenging to play against good players, but it also keeps you motivated and keeps you on your toes.
“We want to show them that we are stronger than they are and that we have more quality players than they have, so it’s more about showing that and showing us and our fans and MLS that we are stronger than they are.”
The Sounders got some good, and some not-so-good news on the injury front. First the good news: Sounders forward Raúl Ruidíaz returned to full training on Monday. Schmetzer indicated that Ruidíaz was a game-day scratch from the lineup versus Toronto. His return to full training should mean he will be ready for action versus LAFC.
The news wasn’t quite as good for forward Will Bruin, who Schmetzer characterized as “day-to-day.” However, that bad news was mitigated by the fact he was present at practice doing work on the side, which would seem to indicate it isn’t a serious injury. Bruin came out of Saturday’s win — after scoring two goals — in the 79th minute with a hamstring injury.
“We’ll try to get him ready for the weekend. If he makes it, great; if not we’ll push him for the San Jose game,” Schmetzer said.