A pair of injuries to the Seattle Sounders top two centerbacks will likely leave them with a new look defensively when they play a still-to-be-determined opponent in the MLS is Back Round of 16.
Assuming Yeimar Gomez Andrade (hamstring) and Xavier Arreaga (concussion protocol) can’t go that will likely mean that Shane O’Neill will be joined by Gustav Svensson at centerback, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer effectively confirmed during his weekly segment on KJR.
Gomez Andrade suffered his injury late in the Chicago Fire match on July 14 and sat out Sunday’s match. Arreaga took a shot to the head against the Whitecaps and was pulled from the match despite doctors apparently clearing him to continue, Schmetzer said. That now looks to be a good decision as Arreaga is now in concussion protocol. It seems unlikely that the Sounders would push either player into action if there’s any question about their health at this point.
Although Svensson has played quite a bit of centerback during his three previous seasons with the Sounders, this would be only his second start there since 2017. The last time Svensson started at centerback was in September last year when the Sounders lost 2-0 at D.C. United. The other options to start there would be Jordy Delem and rookie Josh Atencio. Delem regularly features centerback for Martinique but has never started there for the Sounders.
Even without João Paulo, who is still recovering from his own injury, moving Svensson still leaves the Sounders with solid options in central midfield. The most likely starters would be Cristian Roldan and Delem but Danny Leyva could easily fill in as well.
“I know some folks are nervous that we only have three full-time centerbacks but we have the great benefit of having two, three other guys who can play there without a great drop-off,” Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey told KJR. “That’s really what you want is group of players who can play there. If Gustav goes back and plays centerback, you have people capable of stepping up in center midfield. We feel pretty good about the depth of that group.”