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Sounders training notebook: Raúl Ruidíaz returns

Stefan Frei, Ruidíaz and Jimmy Medranda all appear to be on track to be available against Minnesota United.

MLS: Nashville SC at Seattle Sounders FC Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

TUKWILA, Wash. — The rain held out just long enough for the Seattle Sounders to get in a full training session with dry conditions on Wednesday, their first day back after Sunday’s tie against Austin FC.

Although the Sounders weren’t quite at full strength due to a combination of international duty and injuries, they still had enough bodies to run nearly full-sided drills. Among the somewhat surprising participants in training were Stefan Frei, Jimmy Medranda, Alex Roldán, Raúl Ruidíaz and Albert Rusnák. Frei, Medranda and Ruidíaz all missed recent games with injuries, while Roldán and Rusnák had previously been slated to be out with their national teams but were cleared to remain with the Sounders while nursing relatively minor injuries. All are expected to be available when the Sounders return to action on April 2 against Minnesota United.

Regarding Roldán and Rusnák, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said this: “They’re dinged up. They had conversations with their national teams and they’re here with us. We’re monitoring their injury status.”

Two notable absences from training were Nicolás Lodeiro and Yeimar Goméz Andrade. Lodeiro remains out while in “health and safety protocols” but could be back in time for the Minnesota match, while the prognosis on Yeimar is a bit more up in the air.

“He’s going to be out awhile,” Schmetzer said. “High-ankle sprains are tough injuries. Those can be longer-term. But that’s a case-by-case basis.”

Also participating in more limited fashion were Jordy Delem and Ethan Dobbelaere. Delem, who is currently out of contract and has been working his way back from an ACL injury, participated as a neutral, which usually signifies a player is close to fully fit. Dobbelaere, who is technically still on loan to MFK Vyškov of the Czechia second division, was limited strictly to non-contact drills as he’s recovering from surgery that involved inserting screws into his hand. Dobbelaere’s loan runs through May, but it’s unclear if he’ll return to Europe or remain with the Sounders.

Revs’ loss helped Sounders focus

Although the Sounders advanced to the Concacaf Champions League semifinals with a 4-1 aggregate win against Club León, head coach Brian Schmetzer is still a little annoyed that his team wasn’t able to hold on a couple more minutes and secure a win in the second leg.

“I still feel the same,” Schmetzer said, echoing statements he made immediately after. “I think we had a chance to win that game and really make a statement. I’m still a little irritated about that. But the players really put it in.”

Schmetzer also admitted that the New England Revolution blowing a 3-0 first-leg lead against UNAM Pumas the night before served to benefit the Sounders.

“That was way more powerful than some five-minute lecture about how we shouldn’t take this game lightly,” he said. “They saw it first hand. They made sure that, yes, we were going to defend well but we needed that one counter-attack to put the series to bed. That’s what they did.”

Not looking ahead to NYCFC

For the first time in CCL history, two MLS teams will face off in the CCL semifinals when the Sounders face New York City FC on April 6 and 13. One of them will become just the fifth MLS team to advance to the finals with the hope of becoming the first non-Liga MX team to win CCL during the modern era. Tempting as it may be to look past the Minnesota match, Schmetzer is already guarding against that.

“We can’t lay an egg against Minnesota and then snap out of any sort of funk,” he said. “After a two-week delay, there’s some rust that can ruin your mojo.”

“Underappreciated” Roldan

Cristian Roldan is quietly off to another very strong start in 2022, logging one goal and six assists in his first eight competitive matches. It’s perhaps illustrative, however, that in an MLSsoccer.com story highlighting two-dozen potential MVP candidates, Roldan didn’t even merit a passing mention.

“I think Cristian is one of the most underrated players in our league,” Schmetzer said. “He is absolutely critical to our success going all the way back to 2016 (when Roldan first established himself as a regular starter). That body of work over that time — he should deservedly have a chance to play for his national team and be involved in that World Cup squad because of all the little details that he does. Years like now, now the stats are backing that up but he does a lot more than what’s on his statistical analysis.”

Defiance return to action

Although the Sounders have the weekend off, several of their players could get competitive minutes when the Tacoma Defiance play their inaugural MLS Next Pro match against Real Monarchs on Sunday at Starfire Stadium. Among the first-team players who are candidates for loans are Sam Adeniran, Josh Atencio, Reed Baker-Whiting, AB Cissoko, Danny Leyva, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Dylan Teves.

Those players will supplement a Defiance roster that currently stands at 14 players.

The game kicks off at noon and all tickets cost $15, with sales directly benefiting the RAVE Foundation.