TUKWILA, Wash. — After two days off, the Seattle Sounders returned to training at Starfire on Wednesday, welcomed by the usual intermittent downpours that signal that fall is truly here. The dour weather made for some slick, wet conditions as the Sounders prepared for their match Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Not that anyone minded the “Seattle Sunshine.”
“It’s coming down to the final parts of the year,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “It’s rainy and cold, the way we like it. I sure hope the ‘Seattle Sunshine’ chant is out in full force, and everybody in the ECS is there and they’re enjoying the rain and they’re enjoying a good performance.”
For midfielder Kelyn Rowe, this is his first fall stretch run with his hometown team, having played the previous nine years in New England, Kansas City and (briefly) Real Salt Lake. Rowe said he is cherishing the experience, rain or shine. “I love the rain, I always have,” Rowe said. “A little bit slicker a little bit more fun. I’m like a little kid in there. I may slide early to make sure it’s a really fun slide, so I enjoy this.”
Though Rowe might take issue with the characterization, when the Sounders signed him this offseason, it was generally assumed that he was to be a complementary addition to the roster, providing depth at several key positions. As it turns out, he has been much more than that, appearing in every game for the Sounders this season, logging nearly 2,000 minutes across all competitions. Rowe had not even played half that much in each of his previous two seasons.
“It’s nice, because I’ve obviously played a fair amount of time in this league in multiple positions,” Rowe said. “I’m excited that I’m able to contribute in every game, whether it be starting or coming off the bench. It’s a pretty cool thing to have, especially back in my home town and to be able to help the team like I am, it’s been great.”
Rowe will likely see significant minutes this weekend, as the Sounders will be shorthanded due to injuries and international absences. Alex Roldan, Cristian Roldan, Nouhou, Raúl Ruidíaz and Xavier Arreaga are all away with their national teams. Ruidíaz and Arreaga, who picked up knocks in matches over the last week, are currently with their national teams being assessed, according to Schmetzer.
“We don’t control the players right at this particular moment,” Schmetzer said. “Raúl’s a smart guy, he knows what’s on the line. Xavi’s a smart guy. They all know their bodies, they should be fine.”
The injury news was much better for Nicolas Benezet, who was in full training Wednesday with no apparent restrictions. Schmetzer suggested Benezet’s return might keep the Sounders from making an “extreme hardship” signing, although with no more than 15 outfield players they are eligible to make one.
Just behind Benezet is Jordan Morris, whose participation was only slightly limited, and his first full training is imminent, according to Schmetzer.
“He was not a neutral in our possession [exercises], he is in full training,” Schmetzer said. “In the final game, I had him as a neutral. When he comes back from this weekend, he’ll be in full training. He’s ready, in my humble opinion.”
The Sounders will begin their preparations in earnest for the surging Whitecaps, who are coming off a 3-0 thumping of the San Jose Earthquakes, courtesy of a hat trick from Player of the Week Brian White. The Whitecaps are 6-1-2 over their past nine and have only lost once in their past 15, putting them just outside the playoff line. A win would see them leap over it, an impressive feat for a team that fired their coach after an embarrassing loss to Pacific FC in the Canadian Championship and started the season with just three wins in their first 18 games.
“You get that new-guy bump, although Marc [Dos Santos] started that little run that they had,” Schmetzer said. “It was unfortunate, the loss to Pacific FC, that’s what got him the sack. But Vancouver’s been playing well for a while, so tough team.”
There is no word on when Nicolas Lodeiro will return to training, Schmetzer said. Lodiero had a procedure done to address a reaggravation of his previous knee injury on September 19. “No timeline on that one yet,” Schmetzer said.