Two of the Seattle Sounders’ most important players will be out an indeterminate amount of time after suffering injury setbacks, head coach Brian Schmetzer announced on Friday.
Nicolas Lodeiro, who has been limited to just 24 minutes this year, underwent “successful” arthroscopic surgery this week in an effort to repair lingering inflammation in his knee. At the same time, it was revealed that Stefan Frei had blood clots in his sprained left knee and will now likely need to go on blood thinners. Frei has missed the Sounders’ last two games after suffering the injury late in the San Jose Earthquakes match about two weeks ago.
Although Schmetzer was not able to provide a timeline on either player, Schmetzer did say “We expect both players to be back for part of the regular season.”
Schmetzer also confirmed that midfielder Josh Atencio would be held out of Sunday’s match against Austin FC.
“It doesn’t make sense to put the kid at risk,” Schmetzer said. “He’s running around the field, but I need to be careful. We’re going to have a tough schedule after the break. Better to keep the team as it is. We’ll be OK for this game.
Of the two veterans, Frei’s is likely the longer-term injury. Blood clots are commonly treated with blood thinners and he’ll likely be unable to play as long as he’s on them. That could keep him out for 3-6 months.
“That’s a serious thing,” Schmetzer said about Frei. “But that’s a beauty of this particular group. It’s a tight locker room, guys rally around when things don’t go well. That’s one of the things that I’m most proud of, they protect teammates on and off the field. They’re going to rally around Stef and are going to keep playing.”
Stefan Cleveland has started the last two games in place of Frei and has only allowed one goal, which came on a penalty.
“He’s played well,” Schmetzer said about Cleveland. “He’s done everything we asked, he exceeded our expectations after the first game and that continues to be the case.”
Almost as much as their on-field contributions, the Sounders have relied upon both Lodeiro and Frei to be among their off-field leaders. The prospect of one or even both returning shortly after the upcoming international break had been seen as a potential shot in the arm for a Sounders team that was already enjoying their best-ever start but also managing several absences.
“We’re all bummed,” Sounders midfielder Kelyn Rowe said. “They’re both very influential guys who have been here a long time and a big part of our success. It’s a big loss for us. Our two captains who are pushing guys and make sure we’re accountable to each other. Other guys need to step up and make sure this team doesn’t drop in any way.”
Frustrating and disappointing as this news may be, Schmetzer said none of this is cause for course correction. The Sounders are enjoying their best-ever start with 17 points through seven matches with the backups performing admirably.
“We were always geared up to add pieces in the summer, that hasn’t changed,” Schmetzer said. “We haven’t had Nico, and he’s a big part of our team, but guys have stepped up. I’m not going to change the formation, our formation is working. We’re still going to go out and try to win games and be as good as we can.”