TUKWILA, Wash. — The Seattle Sounders finished their final training session today ahead of Concacaf Champions League return-leg against Olimpia on Thursday, and head coach Brian Schmetzer is dealing with with a couple of bugs — flu and injury.
Schmetzer himself said that he caught a bit of what Harry Shipp had before the first leg in San Pedro Sula. Shipp, who according to Schmetzer was diagnosed with full-blown influenza, has been in training this week, but his status for the game is up in the air.
The news isn’t as favorable for midfielders Gustav Svensson and Nicolas Lodeiro, whose participation in training this week has been far more limited. Both players seem doubtful to feature against Olimpia.
“We’re dealing with a couple of little things here,” Schmetzer said. “We’ll have to get guys back as they come, and the guys that are out — the Harry’s, the Gustav’s, the Nico’s — as soon as they’re ready to play, they’ll play.”
Another player who has been absent from training is centerback Yeimar Andrade, who has been navigating the visa process to be eligible for domestic games. Andrade went to Guatemala after the game in Honduras, but appears those issues are close to resolved, according to Schmetzer.
“Yeimar is working on his P1 Visa issue,” Schmetzer said. “He is out of the country at this moment and he’ll be flying back hopefully this afternoon.”
If Yeimar isn’t available, that means the Sounders will be a bit light at the centerback position for the game if Svensson is out too. But Schmetzer said he’s satisfied with the depth there.
“Shane O’Neill has done fairly well, so I’m happy with where the group is,” Schmetzer said. “I think they just need to gel a bit more. We had some signifiant changes on the backline and it’s kind of a nuanced group of players so they have to get to know each other a little, but I was pleased with what I saw in the first game.”
The match on Thursday may well be a test of endurance and perseverance, given that the Sounders have only one competitive game under their belt. The Concacaf schedule didn’t do the team much of a favor given the short turnaround to the game versus Chicago Fire on the weekend. However, playing on Thursday did at least get the team a full week of training.
“Mentally, they’re good, physically we’ll see,” Schmetzer said. “They had a good week of training. A lot of those players made it through 90 minutes in humid hotter climate on a heavier grass field. I think we’ll be ready.”
With two away-goals the Sounders are in good position to advance, but one area where they’d like to improve is limiting the pressure Olimpia put the team under. Olimipia put a whopping 61 crosses into the Sounders penalty area, leading to a 16-4 advantage in corners.
“Our opponent presented a unique challenge,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “Central American teams tend to be a bit more technical, maybe a bit on the shorter side. They had some players up top that had some size and they realized that is a strength of theirs.”
To mitigate that advantage, Schmetzer said the team has worked on ways to prevent so many crosses from getting into dangerous spots on the field.
“The tactics will change when we’re at home,” Schmetzer said “We’ll step up a little higher, we’ll press a little higher and try to stop some of their attacks before they start. We’ll work on a couple of different things tactically, but overall I’m confident in the group and how they’ll play.”
There is no extra time in this round of the Champions League, but away-goals are the first tiebreaker. If the second leg ends in another 2-2 tie, they’ll go straight to penalties. ... Schmetzer had praise for 16-year-old Danny Leyva, who came in for João Paulo in the first leg of the series in San Pedro Sula “I took João Paulo off — our Designated Player — and put Danny Leyva on, that’s a pretty big statement,” Schmetzer said. “The kid was ready.”