TUKWILA, Wash. — Last week, Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer targeted Friday’s training as the date by which he hoped to have a fully healthy — Nico Lodeiro and Will Bruin aside — roster for training. He didn’t quite meet that target, but he was pretty close.
“It’s not raining, the sun poked out, it’s all being competitive on the first day back, so it was good,” Schmetzer said immediately afterward.
Given the state of things a few days earlier, the Sounders were reasonably close to full strength with most of the internationals back from World Cup qualification duty and the many of the injured players making their returns as well. The Sounders who did go abroad had mixed results as far as playing time, with Alex Roldan and Nouhou playing both matches, but Xavier Arreaga and Cristian Roldan not seeing time. Schmetzer said it remains to be seen which of those players are better off.
“If they go somewhere, and they train and train and train and don’t play sometimes that can work as a disadvantage,” Schmetzer said. “If they’re not going to play, would it have been better to be here with the group so we can work on some things? Sure. When they come back after having not played, they’re using champing at the bit to get back on the field.”
Only Nouhou was entirely absent from Friday’s session, but that was due more to incurring the wrath of the travel gods than the injury he sustained in Cameroon’s last match, a 1-0 victory over Ivory Coast. Nouhou started in the win, but had to be subbed out after less than five minutes with an apparent shoulder injury.
Still, the news could have been much worse, and Schmetzer seemed relatively unconcerned about his star defender’s availability for Tuesday’s match against Real Salt Lake thanks to a WhatsApp conversation.
“Airline travel these days is not good, so the only reason why he’s not here, out on the field, doing the warmups, is because his flight was delayed,” Schmetzer said. “He’ll be out on the field [Saturday] ... but he told me via WhatsApp that he’s fine, 100 percent, ready to play.”
Xavier Arreaga, the other Sounders injured on international duty, was at training, though only participated in the warmups. Schmetzer said the team will assess him over the weekend, as they try to get him ready for Tuesday’s match.
“We’ll ramp him up more tomorrow, and try to get him ready for Tuesday,” Schmetzer said.
Joining Arreaga on the side was Nicolás Lodeiro, whose status for the RSL match is also up in the air.
The Sounders got some better news from a trio of other injured players. Raúl Ruidíaz, João Paulo and Jimmy Medranda all fully participated in training, a good sign given none of them have played a match in nearly three weeks. With Jordan Morris continuing to ramp up his fitness and sharpness, the issue now will be attempting to integrate all of the returning pieces with only three practice days before the first-round playoff match.
“The last six training days when some of the major pieces were gone, it was more about individual development, and a lot of reminders,” Schmetzer. “Today’s training leading up into the game will be more about the group and how we do the tactics. We’ll assess how they made it through training, and we’ll have to pick a lineup and go through the tactics. So still steps to take.”