TUKWILA, Wash. — The training session was a little light with several starters watching much of the proceedings from the sideline, but Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said his team is as healthy as it has been all year. Barring a last-minute surprise, the only significant contributor who won’t be available for the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League semifinal on Wednesday is Yeimar Gomez Andrade.
“Look, you’re always going to have injuries,” Schmetzer said. “But even Jordy Delem [who remains unsigned] is looking good. Everybody is back to health and it’s great.”
The one notable addition to the starting lineup is likely to be Nouhou. The Cameroon international missed the first leg on yellow-card accumulation. Kelyn Rowe filled in for Nouhou in both the league win over Minnesota United and in the first leg against New York City FC, but will likely return to the bench for the second leg. Jimmy Medranda, who made his 2022 debut against NYCFC, will also be available.
Nouhou’s return should help the Sounders shore up their defense. The Sounders hold a 3-1 aggregate-goal lead and will be going into the match focused on posting a shutout.
“It’s two things: keep the clean sheet because we have enough tactical talent to score at least one, and then don’t think we’ve already won,” Schmetzer said.
Playing at Red Bull Arena
On paper, at least, the Sounders seem to have caught a little bit of a break when Concacaf refused to sanction NYCFC’s use of Yankee Stadium. Their Round of 16 “home” match was played at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium, and they played the quarterfinal round in Hartford, Conn. Wednesday’s game is being played at Red Bull Arena, widely considered one of the best soccer stadiums in the country but obviously not NYCFC’s home.
Of course, this is hardly the first time NYCFC have played “home” games at their biggest rival’s stadium. Over the last two years, they’ve hosted 14 games there and played three more as the visitor. In the games when they’ve been considered the home team, they’ve averaged 1.92 points per game. In that same time, the Pigeons averaged 2.36 PPG at Yankee Stadium.
The Sounders don’t have much recent experience at Red Bull Arena, having last played there in 2018. That’s actually the only time they’ve been there since Brian Schmetzer was hired in 2016. The Sounders are 1-4-1 there all-time, and haven’t won since their first-ever visit in 2010. Of course, all of those matches were against the New York Red Bulls and their last five trips also happened to be on short rest, which won’t be the case this time.
“I think it’s a neutral site in many ways,” Schmetzer said. “They’ll have some fans there for sure. But it’s better than Yankee Stadium because they’re used to playing on that small field. That would give them the advantage. But we still have travel and other things to sort out.”
Wary of Taty
One obvious area for potential improvement from NYCFC’s perspective is the production of Taty Castellanos. The reigning MLS Golden Boot winner was held to just one shot in the first leg, although he did assist on their goal. Schmetzer said that was a sign of how well the Sounders defended him, noting that their press was especially effective.
“He didn’t have enough service,” Schmetzer said. “We did a good job of denying him the ball where he wanted it.”
- Away goals are the first tiebreaker, but if the score is tied at the end of regulation and both teams have a single away goal, it will go straight to penalties. The Sounders lead 3-1 on aggregate.
- Concacaf has scheduled kickoff for 9 PM local time on Wednesday; that’s 6 PM Pacific.