SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders got their final training before the start of the 2021 season under some unseasonably sunny skies at Lumen Field on Thursday. Even more enticingly, the forecast should provide for more unseasonably warm weather on Friday, making conditions near-perfect for the approximately 7,000 fans that will be in attendance for the first time in well over a year.
One player that will be a spectator will be Nicolas Lodeiro, who was all but ruled out by head coach Brian Schmetzer after training. The Uruguayan Designated Player has been suffering from an undisclosed injury, and while Schmetzer termed the injury as still “day-to-day,” reading between the lines, Lodeiro is extremely unlikely to feature in the game.
“Nico is obviously a big part of our team,” Schmetzer said. “We’ll expect him back very soon. I put him on the ‘questionable’ injury list because it is day-to-day. We’re not going to put him at risk, but if he’s ready to play, he’s going to play.”
Lodeiro did train on the side along with Jimmy Medranda. Kelyn Rowe, who had been suffering from a minor hamstring injury, trained in full. With Cristian Roldan likely to slot in at Lodeiro’s position, that could allow Josh Atencio to get his first MLS start of his career. Atencio started in the final preseason game against San Diego Loyal and by all accounts acquitted himself well, so getting the 19-year-old midfielder on the field makes sense.
Atencio and the rest of the Sounders are likely to come up against a Minnesota United team itching for revenge on the heels of last year’s dramatic Western Conference final, which saw the Sounders come back from a 2-0 deficit in the final 15 minutes to defeat the Loons 3-2. Schmetzer said he has been preparing his team to get Minnesota’s best shot Friday.
“We started messaging two weeks, as soon as the schedule came out, that Minnesota is going to be a trick opponent,” Schmetzer said. “[Adrian Heath will] have his team ready. Reynoso you saw his quality throughout last year when he came, but certainly in [the Western Conference final]. We’re going to welcome back Ozzie again. They’re a talented team, so it’ll be a tough match.”
One other piece of good news for Schmetzer was the seamless transition of Raúl Ruidíaz back into the team after resolving his green card saga that caused him to miss most of preseason. Ruidiíaz played 45 minutes against San Diego over the weekend, and went through training with no issues. That will provide Schmetzer with his full compliment of forwards to start the year.
“I’m certainly happy that he’s here,” Schmetzer said. “He’s a proven goal-scorer, he’s been very good for the team since he joined.”
- The roster compliance deadline for most of the league is April 16, but as the Sounders are in action Friday, they are required to submit their roster today. Schmetzer previously indicated that several of the Academy and Tacoma Defiance players are candidates for first-team contracts, though no announcement has been made as of publication. The Sounders only need to be roster-compliant by today, though, and appear to be well within that range. They can continue to sign players throughout the year.
- The Sounders are 7-5-0 in opening games overall, and 8-4-0 in their home openers since joining MLS in 2009. Sounders FC have won their last two season openers. Last year, they beat the Chicago Fire 2-1 on a late goal by Jordan Morris and beat FC Cincinnati 4-1 two years ago.