TUKWILA, Wash. — The memory of the squad issues brought on by the international break has mostly faded as the Seattle Sounders prepare for a pivotal match against the New York Red Bulls Sunday, and the team slowly starts resemble something approaching full strength.
The players on international duty have slowly started to trickle back in over the last two days. Wednesday saw a skeleton crew at training, with only 10 outfield players participating, though some players were on their own programs inside the Starfire training facility. The return of 10 players from international duty should mean a much more competitive lineup than was available versus Colorado.
“We had 10 players leave, and that hurts us against Colorado,” midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “Bringing guys back like Victor, who was such a key player on our team and is so willing to get the ball to his feet and dribble one-v-one, he changes the game for us.
“Getting him back onto the field, and getting guys healthy filling those roles, it’s going to be a competitive 18.”
Thursday’s training session looked more representative, as Jordan Morris, Roldan and Raul Ruidiaz made appearances at training coming off games with their international squads Tuesday. Ruidiaz’s status was of some concern, as he had to leave early from Peru’s game against Brazil. Coach Brian Schmetzer said Wednesday he wasn’t worried about the forward’s status for the game Sunday. “He’s gonna be fine,” Schmetzer said. “Precautionary.”
With the standings in the Western Conference as tight as they have ever been, and while the results have mostly gone the Sounders’ way over the last two weeks, a loss Sunday could put their playoff positioning in a precarious position.
“It’s really interesting right now,” Roldan said. “Teams are beating up on each other, and it’s working on our side and fortunately it’s gone our way, but the minute it doesn’t you want to be able to control what you can control and that’s win our games at home and finish off the season in the right fashion.”
Coach Schmetzer said the messaging to the team is pretty simple, given the number of games left and where the Sounders sit in the table. “It’s getting down to crunch time,” Schmetzer said. “We’re all looking at the standings now.”
Schmetzer indicated there wasn’t much to take away from the Colorado game was a whole, given the state of the roster. “The team was not together, we weren’t in sync that game,” he said ... Jordy Delem and Nouhou weren’t at training, though they are expected soon. Nouhou in particular had a long flight from his appearance with the Cameroon U-23 squad ... Victor Rodriguez continues to train in full, and an update on his availability for the game should be addressed later this week.