TUKWILA, Wash. — The Seattle Sounders completed their second scrimmage in as many weeks Tuesday, though like the last one, the objective was more about fitness than preparing for their first playoff match in a weeks time.
That’s mainly because the Sounders are still significantly shorthanded, due to injuries and international absences. The situation is such that the scrimmage was mostly made up of Tacoma Defiance and Sounders Academy players, though the first-team squad, which had most of the Sounders regulars, had enough quality to defeat the Defiance 2-0, thanks to goals from Nicolas Benezet and Jordan Morris.
“We had targeted minutes that we were going to play and we extended that,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We pushed them out to 80 minutes. It was good for Jordan Morris to push out for 80 minutes. ”
Schmetzer said he was pleased with the exercise, but is looking forward to having more of his regulars starting on Friday, as the international break came to an end Tuesday and several injured players are scheduled to resume full training.
Unfortunately, the Sounders did not escape unscathed. Nouhou started in Cameroon’s 1-0 victory over Ivory Coast, a result that sent them through to the final AFC qualifying round. However, the centerback only lasted five minutes before leaving the field with an apparent shoulder injury. At the time of publication, there was no update on his condition.
Meanwhile, Xavier Arreaga left Ecuador before their Tuesday evening CONMEBOL qualifier against Chile. The injury prognosis was a bit better on that front.
“Xavi is here in Seattle and he’s being assessed,” Schmetzer said. “He has a right leg injury. They’ve done an MRI, [and] I hope he’s going to train on Friday. We can get him into some form of training on Friday, and then we’ll see if he’s fit enough.”
At a minimum, Schmetzer did not yet rule out Arreaga for the match against Real Salt Lake, though his status is still up in the air.
Despite those absences, the scrimmage was beneficial, if for no other reason than it gave Morris another chance to get extended minutes.
“This is perfect for him, because he needs to get that sharpness,” Schmetzer said. “He’s coming off a significant injury.”
The scrimmage also allows Schmetzer to see how best to deploy Morris in the Sounders’ system. Morris played as a forward in the first half and then as one of the advanced midfielders in the second half.
“In our 4-2-3-1 in years past, we had Jordan on one side and Cristian on the other,” Schmetzer said. “Cristian can run come into the pocket and he runs in behind into the prime assist zone, and Jordan is more of a deep threat and transition guy. They were different even though technically they’re playing in the same spot.
“So [today] I had Jordan up front as a center forward, and brought him back so he could run from a deeper position. We’ll make that determination based on Raul [Ruidiaz], where Jordan fits, and we’ll go from there.”
Once all of the Sounders are back on the training pitch, the final sprint to next Tuesday will begin, though Schmetzer says he likely won’t have to do much in the way of getting his players mentally ready.
“If I have to say anything, something’s disconnected a long time ago,” Schmetzer said. “It’s the playoffs, we understand it’s one game. If you come up with a bad performance, you’re out. I shouldn’t have to motivate them.
Schmtezer reaffirmed that he expects João Paulo, Jimmy Medranda and Raúl Ruidíaz to be training in full on Friday. Additionally, Nicolas Lodeiro should be present in some capacity as well. “Nico will be out here Friday, but on a limited training basis,” Schmetzer said. “We’ve got to ease him back in because of that bone bruise. We’ve just got to be careful with the amount of miles we put on him.”