TUKWILA, Wash. — The Seattle Sounders returned to the training pitch at Starfire Tuesday morning before hopping on a charter for a midweek match against the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday. If that seems familiar, it should as it’s been a familiar refrain in this Major League Soccer season still dealing with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Midweek matches have been a staple of this season, and the compressed schedule figures to test the Sounders’ depth once again, as the Rapids match is followed by an even shorter break before hosting second-place Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, a match that is potentially even more treacherous given the short turnaround against a side that will be on a full week of rest. It’s a similar situation the Sounders’ successfully navigated the last time they played.
The Sounders won that game 2-1 while on three days’ rest, and have gone 9-1-2 this year when playing on four days’ rest or less.
“This year there’s been a lot of [congestion], where you’ll have a week or week-and-a-half off and then three or four games in seven, eight or nine days,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said. “We have a really deep team, so it really benefits us a lot. We’ve got a lot of quality guys that can rotate in, I think that has really shown in these congested fixtures.
But first things first: The Sounders have to deal with a Rapids side that has been up-and-down a bit as of late (2-2-2), but still presents a stiff challenge, particularly in the mile-high altitude. The Rapids sit in third place in the Western Conference, and could leapfrog SKC with a victory. And that’s to say nothing of the prospect of exacting a bit of revenge for the 3-0 drubbing at the hands of the Sounders earlier this month.
“You know that they’re going to remember,” Bruin said. “It’s down to the nitty-gritty. These are all six-point games. it’s going to be a tough game and we’re expecting a battle, and we’re going there with our eyes on all three points.”
In reviewing the tape from the loss to Houston, Schmetzer acknowledged that the Dynamo more or less deserved the result, though he noted that the Sounders had late opportunities to rescue a point. But with that game in the rearview, and two important matches ahead of them Schmetzer said he’ll need the entire roster to be ready.
“This three-game stretch is almost worse than the four-game stretch,” Schmetzer said. “We’ve got three games in seven days by my reckoning. It’s tough, so we’ll have to use everybody.
The Sounders will be buoyed by the return of Yeimar Gomez-Andrade from a yellow-card suspension.
It’s probably a bit too early for Jordan Morris to play, but he continues to ramp up his training, participating in full Tuesday. Though there was some hope that Morris could have at least made the bench against Houston, Schmetzer said the doctors ruled that it was still too early for that milestone.
“Jordan is still on that medical timeline, unfortunately,” Schmetzer said. “I just got the schedule this morning, but he has to get through X amount of full trainings, and then he will be ready to go. And I’m hopeful that the doctors see him like I see him. “
While Morris inching closer, Nicolas Lodeiro is further off on the horizon. But he made an important step, returning to training on the side over the last two days and looked to at least be at a place where Schmetzer can imagine his return this season.
“Nico is, thankfully, back on the field and he looks great,” Schmetzer said. “You saw the smile on his face, but that one is still a ways away.”
With Morris and Lodeiro on the mend, and Raul Ruidiaz scheduled to return to the team at the end of this week, Schmetzer said he’ll have the enviable problem of trying to reintegrate some high-powered stars into a team that has performed well for most of the season without some — or all — of them available.
“The team has in some ways really outperformed a lot of pundits, external for sure, maybe some internal,” Schmetzer said. “We’ve had guys step up. In a lot of years, by now I would probably have a set rotation and a team that’s [set] for the last for games of the year moving into the playoffs. It’s a different this year. I think the group is pretty strong [so] however it shakes out, I think we have a very good chance of going deep into the playoffs.
- Jordy Delem announced that he and his wife are expecting their first child. Delem was put on the season-ending injury list after suffering an ACL injury early this year, but his rehabilitation appears to be going well. “Jordy Delem is such a wonderful human being,” Schmetzer said. “We’re so happy that he’s making his home in Seattle, starting a family. It’s a great success story.”
- Schmetzer ruled out Brad Smith for the match against Colorado with the shoulder injury he sustained in training.