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Sounders training notebook: House of horrors

Sounders well aware of their struggles at Real Salt Lake.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Real Salt Lake Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

TUKWILA, Wash. — With three competitive matches already under their belts, the Seattle Sounders will now head into the first congested part of their schedule. Starting with Saturday’s game at Real Salt Lake, the Sounders will play five games in 15 days. That will include the two legs of their Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal tie against Liga MX’s Club León on March 8 and 17.

With so many players still working toward full fitness, rotation will be a necessity.

Traditionally, the Sounders deploy their starters in 11-v-11 drills two days before matches. On Thursday, the groups were mixed enough that it was hard to tell which was supposed to be the starters.

The safe bet seems to be that head coach Brian Schmetzer will put out his best possible lineup for the March 8 match, meaning anyone from that group he doesn’t think can start both games will probably come off the bench against RSL.

Speaking of RSL...

Since 2012, the Sounders have played at Rio Tinto Stadium 11 times. They’ve gone 0-9-2 in those games for a points per game of .18. That’s their worst record at any MLS stadium over that period of time.

The Sounders are 0-4-1 at Rio Tinto under Schmetzer, with their lone point coming in a 2-2 draw in 2020 that was played in front of a very small crowd.

“Our club has not had a great record at RSL, not at all,” Schmetzer said on Wednesday. “We’ll go down there, play for a win and try to come out with something.”

Feeling like himself

Jordan Morris has started all three games for the Sounders this year, scored his first goal since 2020 last week and has now logged about 500 competitive minutes since returning from his ACL injury late last year. While he’s still gaining sharpness, Morris says he feels as though he’s feeling like himself again.

“Physically, I feel great,” he said on Thursday. “The knee is feeling really good. Getting those games with the national team definitely helped with the confidence, getting the goal helped with confidence. But there are little things I can still work on, areas where I’m not quite back where I want to be.”

Pushing the tempo

One of the things Schmetzer stressed in the postgame press conference following the 1-0 loss to Nashville SC was the Sounders’ need to better control tempo. While that responsibility is spread among many players, goalkeeper Stefan Frei plays a big role in that.

“It’s an ongoing discussion for the past three to four years,” Frei said. “It’s a fine line. You want to create tempo but you want to create it in a smart way. You’re five yards away from goal so the risks you’re taking have to be calculated. We’re aware of that. We’ve gotten more comfortable.

“We have a lot of options on the field and we’re trying to put these options in places that allow us to find those overloads, to find the man who’s 1-on-1 and we fancy our chances and it’s worth that risk. It’s a matter of trying to create that checklist and going down where that is.”

Weird pregame ceremony

Albert Rusnák will be playing his first game at RSL since joining the Sounders on a free-agent deal this offseason. The 27-year-old spent five mostly productive seasons there, and left ranking among the top 5 all-time for goals and assists. Still, it’s a little weird that RSL is honoring him in a pregame ceremony, something we don’t see much of around MLS and certainly not for in-their-prime players who just left via free agency. The official explanation for the ceremony is a bit of a headscratcher, “The sentiment from Real Salt Lake is a show of respect for one of the most exciting players to come through the club’s doors.”

Nothing against Rusnák but that seems like a rather low bar for such a rare honor.

Prepare for ugly weather

Weather in Utah is always a little unpredictable but that’s especially true in early spring. Yesterday it was sunny and in the 70s. On Saturday, it might even snow.

The Weather Channel thinks there’s about 67% chance of precipitation and that temperatures will be in the low to mid-30s during the game. It could get ugly!

Injury update

Schmetzer effectively ruled out Raúl Ruidíaz for Saturday’s game but said he’s hopeful to have his striker back for the CCL match. Will Bruin is a bit closer, possibly returning for RSL, but Jimmy Medranda and Josh Atencio are still out for at least a couple more weeks, Schmetzer said.