TUKWILA, Wash. — Much of the conversation off the field may be focused on the coronavirus, and how it could impact the game on Saturday. But it was business as usual at Starfire, where the Sounders continued to prepare for the Columbus Crew.
Most encouragingly, Gustav Svensson and Will Bruin have been in full training all week. Svensson has progressed to the point where he is “available for selection,” according to coach Brian Schmetzer, while Bruin is apparently a bit ahead of schedule. Midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro has also increased his training load, and is making progress.
“He is still on the field doing extra work, getting closer daily,” Schmeter said about Lodeiro. “Once he gets through his final protocol, he’ll be back in the group. If it’s not this weekend, next weekend. He’s got to hit certain metrics, and we’ll go from there.”
While Bruin is in full training, there is a possibility that he sees some minutes with Tacoma Defiance before returning to first-team action. It has been about nine months since Bruin has seen competitive action. However, he will not be making a cameo appearance in this Friday’s Defiance opener according to Schmetzer.
“There’s a couple of games we’ve targeted,” Schmetzer said. “Will has accelerated his timeline to a point we have to keep recalibrating. That’s part of the reason for Defiance, to have some of our guys go down and get 90 minutes, and injury rehab, [but] Will would not be in the Defiance game on Friday.”
With Svensson available if Schmetzer wants, that could allow fans the first look at what is presumed to be the desired defensive midfield pairing, along with João Paulo. However, Schmetzer cautioned that it could take a bit of time for the pairing to gel, given that Svensson has not played a competitive game yet this year.
“Two really experienced players,” Schmetzer said. “It’ll be a little bit of a work in progress, because Gustav missed some considerable time down in Mexico while we were doing some of that tactical stuff. Those guys are smart enough to figure out what they do best. It’ll make our team look a little different, hopefully for the better.”
One issue the Sounders continue to work on is integration and communication along the backline, given the substantial changes in personnel over the offseason. The Sounders added two new centerbacks at the beginning of the year in Shane O’Neill and Yeimar Gómez Andrade. The team’s only other centerback, Xavier Arreaga, has been with the Sounders for less than a season.
“Whoever we rotate in there, they’ll do a good job,” Schmetzer said. “As with all things, especially the nuances of a back four and a centerback paring, there will be some bumps in the road. The communication will come with familiarity.”