For all the ups and downs of the 2020 season, there’s been one major question looming over the Seattle Sounders: What will they look like once they’re at full strength?
Head coach Brian Schmetzer told KJR on Wednesday that an answer should finally start to emerge when the Sounders visit the Timbers on Aug. 23 to begin phase 2 of the restarted season.
“We haven’t seen our full-strength squad yet,” Schmetzer said. “You’ll see our full strength squad out against Portland, that much I guarantee.”
Without Nicolas Lodeiro (knee tenditis) in the earlier part of the season, João Paulo (quad strain) during the entirety of the MLS is Back Tournament and Yeimar Gomez Andrade (paperwork and hamstring) for parts of both, the Sounders will head into the match with a 2-1-2 regular-season record. Both João Paulo and Gomez Andrade have been training in full since the team returned to the practice field earlier this month.
João Paulo’s return, in particular, has the potential to have a profound effect on the Sounders’ offensive set up. Assuming he slots into the defensive midfield alongside Gustav Svensson, the Sounders should be able to better control the ball and will have another dynamic attacker on the pitch. João Paulo had two goals and an assist in Concacaf Champions League play and was consistently serving in dangerous set-pieces, earning a secondary assist in the season-opening win over the Chicago Fire.
In addition to those three, the Sounders will also have added muscle off the bench after Will Bruin (knee), Joevin Jones (adductor) and Miguel Ibarra (hamstring) were all forced to sit for parts of the the MLS is Back Tournament. Bruin and Jones returned in the Round of 16 and connected on a goal.