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Sounders preseason notes: Brian Schmetzer pleased with performance against Sacramento Republic

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Chris Henderson strongly suggests this is the group Sounders will take into Champions League.

Mike Fiechtner / Sounders FC Communications

It may be a preseason game against a lower-division side, but the Sounders looked solid in their final preseason match before heading to Mexico City for the next couple weeks. A mixed group beat the Sacramento Republic 6-2 in a 120-minute game.

Coach Brian Schmetzer was understandably pleased with the overall performance, though he was quick to temper enthusiasm.

“Lots of things that were very good, and lots of things we still need to work on,” Schmetzer said. “I think the kids in that second 45-minute period need a little bit more work on the concepts that we’re trying to bring them up to speed on. The first group that went out there I was happy with some of the soccer we played.”

Much of the talk after the game focused on João Paulo, the Sounders newest Designated Player. Deployed with Jordy Delem, João Paulo was impressive both in defense and in attack, frequently unlocking the Sacramento defense with pinpoint passing. His most impressive of which was in the 35th minute when he sprung Leerdam on the right side, who centered a pass to Jordan Morris for a tap-in. “You saw what he brings,” Schmetzer said. “I like a lot of the things I saw. You all want to talk about passing, there was times when the ball turned over and he would go and press. And that’s what we do.”

Cristian Roldan got the start at the right wing position, presumably taking over for the departed Victor Rodriguez. Schmetzer said he was pleased with his effectiveness going forward, in addition to his usual defensive work. “Some of the moves that Cristian made from that wing position in the pocket and he’d sprint behind Jordan (Morris), he looked sharp today,” Schmetzer said.

The one position battle of note is at left back, where the Sounders have two capable options in Joevin Jones and Nouhou. The Cameroon left back got the start over Jones, who played the last 45 minutes of the three-period session. “I thought Nouhou was very, very good,” Schmetzer said.

With the bulk of the roster seemingly set, the remainder of the preseason will in part focus on which — if any — of the young talent can break through and win a first team contract. One player who surely caught Schmetzer’s eye already is signed in Justin Dhillon, who scored three goals in the last 45-minute period against Sacramento. “He’s a handful,” Schmetzer said. “If he keeps scoring goals, he’s going to have a long career.”

As to the other young players, Schmetzer said he was generally satisfied with what he saw, with that unit outscoring Sacramento 3-1. “Shandon [Hopeau] did well, Alex Roldan scored one of the goals...I think [Danny] Leyva had a couple of assists so I think the young players did well.”

Are the Sounders done signing players?

The signing of Gomez Andrade filled the Sounders’ last glaring offseason need. If there are other additions made, it sounds like they won’t be imminent even though they now have an open international spot after Emanuel Cecchini’s loan to Union de Santa Fe.

“Whether we do something in the next few months in this window or we wait until the summer, those are ongoing discussions,” Sounders Sporting Director Chris Henderson said. “We can also see how the season starts. If we have any injuries and were we need to upgrade the team. We are still looking to be active, but with the Champions League I think this is the group we’re going to forward with.”

Other Notes

Gustav Svensson’s absence from the game was termed precautionary by coach Schmetzer. ... Nico Lodeiro is still expected to join the team in Mexico. ... There remain questions as to when Yeimar Gomez Andrade, whose signing was announced by the team today, will be able to join the team but Chris Henderson expressed some optimism that the centerback’s visa will be processed in time for him to take part in the Mexico training.