TUKWILA, Wash. — There was a welcomed addition to Seattle Sounders training on Tuesday: Yeimar Goméz Andrade.
This was the first time the Sounders centerback has been anything close to a full participant in training since leaving the March 12 game against the LA Galaxy with what was eventually deemed a “high-ankle sprain.” Yeimar has missed the last six games and had been limited to jogging outside. The Sounders have allowed one goal in each of the six games he’s missed, going 2-1-3.
On Tuesday, however, Yeimar appeared to be a full participant in the four-a-side minigames the Sounders were playing. He seemed to be moving without serious limitations, although he did head inside a little earlier than most of his teammates.
On Wednesday, Yeimar made another step forward by participating in a full-sided scrimmage. After that session, head coach Brian Schmetzer said Yeimar would be available for selection on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes and might even be able to compete for starter’s minutes during the two legs of the Concacaf Champions League final.
“There’s always a gradual path about how you bring players back,” Schmetzer said. “He has to regain his game fitness, make sure the ankle is OK, there are steps he has to go through. But it’s actually handy that we have a game against San Jose. We can test him. Once he gets through however many minutes he plays in San Jose, then we can make that decision.”
Focused on San Jose
Although the Sounders have arguably the biggest match in their history next week when they begin play in the Concacaf Champions League final, they must first navigate Saturday’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
The Earthquakes are currently the league’s last winless team, which includes a 0-1-3 record at PayPal Park, and just parted ways with head coach Matias Almeyda. Alex Covelo was recently promoted from their MLS Next Pro team to take over for the first team and is expected to move away from the man-marking system that defined Almeyda’s tenure.
“With a new coach, we don’t know how they’re going to play,” Sounders midfielder Josh Atencio said following Tuesday’s training session. “We have to be focused on what we’re going to do because we don’t have a lot of intel into their plans. It will be important for how we approach the game.”
Having just lost to one of the league’s other bottom-dwelling teams — Inter Miami had given up a league-worst 15 goals and had never beaten a Western Conference team — the Sounders are well aware that they can’t overlook the Earthquakes.
“It’s part of being a professional and playing for a big club like the Seattle Sounders, you always approach the next game like it’s the most important one,” Sounders forward Fredy Montero said. “San Jose is the most important game for now. We’re preparing for that one. We lost our last game in MLS, so we need to get whatever points away that we lost at home.”
Pride in the kids
Having played on the Sounders U17s that won the GA Cup in 2019, Josh Atencio took some added pride in watching this year’s academy team repeat as champions. The Sounders remain the only MLS-affiliated academy to win the tournament since foreign clubs started participating in 2014.
“It’s awesome,” Atencio said. “It’s a testament to what a great club and youth setup we have here. We do a great job of preparing everyone for it.”
Part of that preparation involves having academy players train regularly with their older peers. Almost all of them have spent at least some time training with Tacoma Defiance, many have trained with the first team, and a few even traveled with the Sounders during preseason.
“All these guys are in pro environments day-to-day,” Atencio said. “They might not be on the contracts, but it’s a great proving ground. They’re in the system and it shows off.”