TUKWILA, Wash. — Battered but not broken, the Seattle Sounders returned to training Friday at Starfire as they try to put what has been a difficult 4-game winless stretch behind them. Injuries, absences and a dip in form have conspired to knock the Sounders from their perch atop the Western Conference, and for the time being do not control their own destiny as they attempt to reach the summing with two games remaining.
Still, the Sounders are hardly in a precarious position. They’ve guaranteed themselves a top-3 finish, and with one win in their final two games can assure themselves of at worst a second-place finish, which would guarantee home-field advantage up until the Western Conference final and lock up a Concacaf Champions League spot.
There is quite a bit of business to take care of in the meantime, starting this Monday when the LA Galaxy come to town. The unusual match dates over the last couple of weeks means the Sounders have effectively had a regular rest period, with no multi-game weeks left and a full week of rest in between games.
“It was a pretty spirited training session,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said after training Friday. “They were getting after it [and] overall I was pleased with how training went.”
The relatively normal week has allowed Schmetzer to get his players on a normal training schedule, particularly important because of another sudden rash of injuries at a rather inopportune time.
But good news first: Schmetzer announced Thursday that Jordan Morris is likely to feature against the Galaxy, though he did slightly hedge after training, noting that the game state would dictate how — and if — he appears. Raúl Ruidíaz, who was not called in to national team duty with Peru, was partially limited in training on Friday and is likely to train in full on Saturday.
“He was in most of training, he’ll probably train in full tomorrow, provided there’s not setback from his work today,” Schmetzer said. As to whether Ruidiaz could feature on Monday, Schmetzer was a bit more noncommittal than with Morris, but did offer it was possible. “There’s always a chance,” Schmetzer said.
One Sounder who is not only likely to feature Monday but could start the match is Nicolas Lodeiro, who made his return to the field against LAFC on Tuesday. Schmetzer said he was pleased with Lodeiro’s progression, and expects him to play a prominent role against the Galaxy.
“He’s in consideration to start, if his knee didn’t swell up,” Schmetzer said. “He looked pretty good out there [today].”
Now the bad news: The Sounders injury bug struck again on Tuesday, with two more players going down. The worst appears to be Will Bruin, who suffered an aggravation of a previous knee injury he had been playing through. Schmetzer said there is no timeline on his return, pending further assessment.
“Will Bruin has a knee issue, and I don’t have the correct medical terminology, but he will not feature in the game Monday,” Schmetzer said. “He’s going to see a specialist.”
Léo Chú was at least at training, but was working off to the side after suffering an an ankle injury on a hard tackle late in the LAFC match.
“His ankle is dinged up because of that horrible tackle, so he is day-to-day,” Schmetzer said.
Aside from dealing with the personnel issues, Schmetzer said the next few days will focus on fixing some of the defensive problems that have plagued the Sounders in recent weeks. In their 0-1-3 stretch, the Sounders have conceded a total of eight goals. They had only given up seven goals in their previous nine games.
“We’ll be doing some defending [training] tomorrow, we did some defending today,” Schmetzer said. “We watched some film, we did our process, so hopefully with some continuity along the backline, get guys used to playing with each other again, hopefully that will help.
“I wasn’t pleased with the back five, midfield, up front. The team didn’t defend very well.”