UPDATE: The Sounders have acquired a 2019 International Roster Spot from the Vancouver Whitecaps. The move allows them to roster all nine of their international players without having to find creative solutions in house. They gave up a 2021 MLS SuperDraft second round pick in exchange. Of note, the Sounders didn’t have to part ways with any allocation money.
TUKWILA, Wash. — The Seattle Sounders finished up their last practice before heading to Portland later today, and there is still some question as to who exactly will be making the trip south.
Emannuel Cecchini returned to practice on Wednesday, and trained in full today. The latest Sounders signing had been absent earlier in the week as he worked through the process to obtain a visa. Coach Brian Schmetzer said with a smile on his face that, “his visa status is solved.” The next question is how the Sounders plan to make him eligible for the game this weekend? The Sounders don’t currently have any open international slots, and either need to purchase one from another MLS team, or move a player who currently takes a slot via a sale, release or loan to Tacoma Defiance.
Nouhou, who has been absent from training the last two days, is a logical candidate for a move, and Schmetzer indicated his status is still up in the air. “That is something that I’m dealing with internally,” Schmetzer said.
There are a number of international slots available from other teams, but those teams have to be willing to sell them, and at a price the Sounders are willing to pay. The loan of Nouhou mitigates the leverage of those teams, but at the cost of one of the Sounders better defenders. Even if he’s loaned, Nouhou could be recalled to the Sounders at any time before the roster deadline freezes on Aug 30. The Sounders could be banking on other teams preferring a minimal return as opposed to retaining international spots they can no longer use.
A source indicated that a resolution to this situation is expected later Thursday afternoon.
The focus after the LA Galaxy game has been working to stop the Timbers’ counter-attack, and improving the offensive efficiency, as they work to get out of their current run of form. Defensively the focus has been on limiting bad turnovers which lead to dangerous chances. “No. 1, keep possession of the ball and make sure we don’t lose it in tough area where they can really exploit their counter,” midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “That’s been our Achilles’ heel at the moment, just having small errors that lead to goals.”
Schmetzer said a focus on “active defending” will help the team avoid lapses in concentration and errors in dangerous places. “As we are attacking, as we are keeping possession of the ball, we actively get close to Valeri, to Fernandez to Blanco to guys who start their transition moments,” Schmetzer said. “We’ve messaged that all year, we just need to make sure we execute.”
Offensively, Roldan said it’s important to stretch the Portland backline more to get them out of their comfort zone. “I felt we lacked that against the Galaxy,” Roldan said. “Once they get into their block of eight, we have to find ways to get in behind and stretch them a little bit. Make the gaps between their defenders and midfielders a little bit bigger so we can play in between the lines and turn them that way.
“It’s a tough place to play and we can really turn the season around with a big win.”
Schmetzer all but ruled Victor Rodriguez out for the game, as the Spanish midfielder has not practiced all week. He hopes to have him back for next weeks game versus the Galaxy ... Brad Smith has practiced in full this week and is available for selection.