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Five things we’d like to see vs. Austin FC

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Sounders get to see what all the hype is about.

SOCCER: JUL 01 MLS - Portland Timbers at Austin FC Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are only 12 available first-team outfield players for the Seattle Sounders’ first-ever visit to Austin FC. They’ll be joined by four Tacoma Defiance youngsters. For most teams, that’s not a recipe for success, but the Sounders aren’t most teams.

Play for three

After Sunday’s game I asked Brian Schmetzer if they had been trying to manage the game with the hope of getting a point. He rejected the idea. By his thinking, the way you start dropping points regularly is by starting out just looking to escape with a point. Sure, the Sounders may have a comical number of injuries — the players out for this match could make up a Supporters’ Shield contender of their own — but this is a team that has learned to win over the past few months. There’s no reason they should come into this game expecting anything less. — Jeremiah

Tough times? Tough kids

There was going to be a point this season where the Sounders lost a game. It finally happened on Sunday when they narrowly lost, 1-0, to Minnesota United, with the backdrop to the game being that nearly a full starting XI of players was missing. If that’s bad, tonight’s match is worse because now Xavier Arreaga is out due to yellow-card accumulation. I’m not sure what the expectation is for the Sounders when they take on Austin, but I would like to see a really encouraging response. Losing or dropping points is acceptable, but how it happens matters the most. When the going gets tough, the tough kids get going. — Mark

Bare cupboards at CB

The Sounders have the best defense in the league and it’s not particularly close. This has been thanks in large part due to having a very solid backline. That’s now being tested to an extreme degree with Shane O’Neill, Nouhou, and Arreaga all out for this one. That leaves just two available first-team centerbacks for a team accustomed to starting three. There are two ways Brian Schmetzer could approach this problem. He could change the formation, electing to return to the two-centerback formation of previous seasons. I think that seems unlikely, given how well the new formation has been working. The other option is to slot Josh Atencio into the backline. Atencio’s game is not dissimilar to former Sounder Gustav Svensson, and he did play centerback for all of 2019 with the Defiance. He could slot in as the middle of the back 3 and play like a sort of deep-lying playmaker. — Mark

Some Ruidíaz magic

It seems a bit counter-intuitive to suggest that Raúl Ruidíaz is having anything but a stellar season. And while his 10 goals scored has him tied for the Golden Boot lead, that’s due as much to his impressive ability to put himself in dangerous spots as it is to remarkable finishing. In fact, Ruidíaz’s 9.8 xG are right in line with what you’d expect. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but it does suggest that Ruidíaz is only finishing at a league-average clip. What we’ve not seen from Ruidíaz this year is a game where he basically puts the Sounders on his shoulders and carries them to victory. Given the nature of the roster, now would be a good time for something like that. — Jeremiah

No more absences

OK, now we’re getting a little greedy, but it sure would be swell if the Sounders could actually go into their next game with more available players than they had the game before. That means no dumb red cards and no silly injuries. It’s probably too much to ask that one of the injured Sounders gets fit in time for Sunday, but as long as Xavier Arreaga’s return represents a net gain, I’ll take that. — Jeremiah