Brian Schmetzer’s Seattle Sounders did not get an easy start to their 2021 season. The early schedule begins with two teams expected to challenge Seattle for Western Conference supremacy. Minnesota United tried, and failed. And now, ESPN gets the big contest between Sounders and the angels of LAFC.
National TV may be disappointed because of the number of stars injured, but they’ll be happy to know that two coaches aren’t making injury excuses. Both sides expect greatness from their players and both think trophies are in sight for 2021.
For Angels on Parade, Alicia answers Three Questions.
SaH: How in the world did the accidental sub of Carlos Vela happen? Will he be bitter after leaving in the 22nd minue?
AoP: I think he is actually injured. Bob Bradley said Vela has not been in full training this week with a “muscle” ailment (looked like a quad issue to me) and told reporters he would put the star at “questionable” for the game against Seattle. We’ll have to see if and how he’s listed on LAFC’s injury report, too, I suppose, but to me it sounds fairly likely he won’t play. It’s possible, of course, but Bob tends to be pretty open when asked directly about injuries and I’d say it’s 50-50 at best.
Obviously if Vela’s out, the Sounders have to like their chances in this game a lot more, but it sounds like with the benefit of some time, the quick trigger on pulling Vela out last week may have been prudent after all to prevent him from making an injury worse.
SaH: Is Diego Rossi going to be healthy? Who gets benched if he is?
AoP: In contrast, Rossi, who missed the season opener with a hamstring issue, has been training this week, per Bob, although he is also listed as “questionable” by the coach as of Thursday. I wouldn’t be shocked if he does a fitness test Saturday to determine his availability for this game.
I will note that Rossi being hurt with LAFC is pretty much unheard of, he may have missed a game or two along the way from a knock but he’s played nearly every game in LAFC history, remarkably. The team is accustomed to Vela being out sometimes, but Rossi’s absences have been far less frequent. I think the likes of Danny Musovski, Corey Baird and Mahala Opoku finally bring some attacking depth that seems capable of producing, but even with the greatest respect to them, it’s still a dropoff if Rossi isn’t available. If he plays and Vela sits, Rossi will play with Baird and Musovski Saturday.
SaH: Why do so many big money players want out of LA? Both goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer and midfielder Brian Rodriguez are gone.
AoP: The circumstances around those two players are pretty different. Speculation around Kenneth Vermeer is that he asked to leave after Pablo Sisniega was named the starter, while Bob only said there were “discussions at the club” so it’s hard to say. But I do think having two starters like last year meant there was no starter, and Sisniega seems to have more upside than Vermeer, who ran very hot and cold. Either way, having an expensive GK taking up an international slot while sitting on the bench is not a good use of resources in MLS, so I think that move is pretty defensible if it was mutual.
Meanwhile, Brian Rodriguez is trying to force a move to Europe. His agent has been shopping him there since the day he signed with LAFC, basically, and Rodriguez’s status as a Uruguayan international means he can absolutely find a suitor in Europe at some point. He forced a loan move to Spanish second-division side Almería at the transfer deadline in the last window, and his permanent purchase price would give LAFC a profit but I’m skeptical Almería would pay it, even if they get promoted to La Liga. What then? That’s the big question. I would guess LAFC would be happy to sell him for a profit, but they likely have to keep the door open for him to return in the summer. Would he eat some humble pie and come back into the fold? Would he sink his value by going on strike to force a permanent move? It’s unclear and as a result LAFC’s 3rd Designated Player slot remains occupied for the time being. Stay tuned.
D: Blackmon, Murillo, Segura, Palacios
M: Blessing, Atuesta, Kaye
F: Opoku, Musovski, Baird