UPDATE: Brian Schmetzer confirmed on Monday that João Paulo is almost certainly out of Tuesday’s game against the Chicago Fire and that he’d be re-assessed after that for possible participation in the group stage finale against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday.
It looks like the Seattle Sounders will need to wait a little longer before showcasing their ideal starting XI. Despite Nicolas Lodeiro’s return to full fitness — he missed the Sounders’ four pre-pandemic matches of 2020 — it was revealed that João Paulo will likely be unavailable for the MLS is Back opener against the San Jose Earthquakes after suffering a quad injury during training in Washington.
The exact timing and extent of the injury are not yet known, but it likely occurred some time between the Sounders’ 75-minute scrimmage on June 22 (in which he played) and their 80-minute scrimmage on June 26 (in which he did not play). Although João Paulo is in Florida with the rest of the team, he’s also been notably absent from photographs of the team in action, which suggests he might be limited to work on the side.
The Sounders would have a couple different options to provide a replacement. One possibility is playing Miguel Ibarra as a wide midfielder and shifting Cristian Roldan to play alongside Gustav Svensson. The other possibility is to leave Roldan as an attacking midfielder while inserting Jordy Delem into the lineup.
A Sounders source indicated that the team is not inclined to push João Paulo into action and risk making the injury worse, especially given the team only resumed full training less than a month ago. The heat, humidity and field conditions in Central Florida are also being considered.
With just four days between the Sounders’ opening and second match of the tournament, it would seem unlikely that João Paulo will be deemed fit enough to compete in either game. The more likely scenario is that the Sounders make an assessment after the Chicago Fire match on July 14 based on where he is in his recovery and the likelihood of the team making a long run in the tournament.