TUKWILA, Wash. — The days are shorter, and so too is the time off between games. Or at least it is that way now, as the Seattle Sounders returned to Starfire Friday to get one training session in before taking on Sporting Kansas City Saturday afternoon at Lumen Field.
The Sounders didn’t have much time to go over the the film from Wednesday’s game against the Rapids; head coach Brian Schmetzer said that aside from a review from the coaches, they didn’t really go over the tape with the players. The 1-1 draw wasn’t particularly inspiring to watch, though the Sounders happily took the point and got out of town.
“That last match was a success in some ways,” Schmetzer said. “The standard we like to set at the club is that you’re never truly satisfied. If you rest on your laurels, it’s never good. If you make some mistakes in key areas you want to correct those. We’ll work on all of those things. There’s not a ton of training time anymore because the games are so fast.”
The Sounders will have their hands full with SKC still gunning for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Sounders have a bit of a cushion, currently leading both SKC and the Colorado Rapids by six points. But Peter Vermes’ side has a game in hand to play, and more importantly for this match, a full week of rest.
They also have a side capable of more than just holding their own against the Sounders, having claimed a 3-1 victory at Lumen Field over the summer. The Sounders did repay the favor at Sporting Park, winning 2-1, so Saturday’s match should have a little extra fire to it, according to goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
“We expect them to be pushing hard, I think a tie doesn’t do them any good,” Frei said. “They’re going to need to come out swinging and try to get three points. They have more than capable players to succeed. They’re always a tough team to play against.”
If the Sounders want to get a result, they’ll likely have to find a way to deal with Johnny Russell. The winger has 11 goals and six assists this season and win or lose, seemingly always torments the Sounders.
“He’s got a little bit of everything,” Frei said. “He’s got that hunger, he’s got that edge, he has the technique. He’s got the audacity to try things [and] the skill to back it up. That’s what you want in offensive-minded players. We’re always aware of him, but he always seems to be able to find something.”
Russell aside, Sporting boasts a compliment of players who can provide ample support and goals. Though for the Sounders, attrition may be their worst enemy in this match. Having played Wednesday on the road at altitude and with a game Tuesday in LA, the brief stop at home probably doesn’t feel like much of a respite, and Schmetzer said that the Sounders will just have to gut out this game against a side looking for points.
“They’re a great team, Peter’s a great coach,” Schmetzer said. “There’s a style of play that he likes, that he demands out his team, so you know what you’re getting. Hardworking 4-3-3, they’ve got quality players. [Dániel] Sallói has done a really good job. He’s their number one goal scorer. Russell, the captain is very good [and] the goalkeeping is very solid.”
It won’t help for this game, but the Sounders continue to inch closer to something resembling full health. Schmetzer announced Thursday that he expects Jordan Morris to be ready to make his return to the pitch Nov. 1 versus the LA Galaxy. Defender Brad Smith was at training and appears to be closer to a return.
Perhaps most promisingly, midfielder Nico Lodeiro was a full participant in training, though as a neutral in some drills. Schmetzer said that Lodeiro is still a little bit behind Morris in returning to the pitch, but his participation in training indicates he’s closer than some may have thought.
“They’re both getting close, I think Jordy’s a little ahead of Nico,” Schmetzer said. “Nico’s a tough kid, he’s resilient. Jordan’s a sprinter, Nico moves all over the field [so] the medical staff might be a little more lenient with Nico, rather than a sprinter coming out right away and putting himself at risk.”
- Raul Ruidiaz was expected back with the Sounders on Thursday, but his return has been delayed until Saturday due to flight issues, according to Schmetzer. “Airline business is tough these days,” Schmetzer quipped.