TUKWILA — Training was already close to wrapping up when a scuffle broke out between team captain Nicolás Lodeiro and centerback Abdoulaye Cissoko on Wednesday. The disagreement was intense enough that Cissoko had to be physically restrained by a couple different players and he was clearly very upset as he walked off the pitch.
It was not immediately clear what sparked the argument nor why Cissoko was so fired up.
“The team still has fight in them,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said half-jokingly when asked about it afterward. “I don’t agree with them fighting amongst themselves and I’ll address it with both of them, but that stuff happens.”
Schmetzer’s comments did hint at some underlying tension following Saturday’s loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Although the Sounders remain four points out of the final playoff spot, they did drop a spot in the standings and more importantly missed an opportunity to seize control of their playoff destiny. Even if they win their final three regular-season games, they’ll need some help in order to advance to a 14th straight postseason.
While the odds of the Sounders winning three straight for the first time this season are reasonably slim, Schmetzer is focusing on a different part of the equation.
“Chances are high if we can win these three games,” he said. “That’s the message.
“We put ourselves in this position and it’s up to us to pull ourselves out of this hole.”
The Sounders had originally planned to give players three days off following the Whitecaps game since they don’t play again until next Tuesday. But several of the potential starters were asked to return to training after just two days off in an effort to make sure they’re all 90 minutes fit. That’s likely a nod to the reality that several players will need to step into bigger roles against FC Cincinnati as several starters will be absent.
At the very least, the Sounders are planning to be missing Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador), Lodeiro (yellow-card suspension), Jordan Morris (United States) and Nouhou (Cameroon). It’s also possible that Alex Roldan (El Salvador) and Raul Ruidiaz (Peru) will be out, but their situations are a bit more in flux.
One player who is almost certainly in line for extended minutes is Jackson Ragen. The centerback has logged nearly 1,300 first-team minutes but has just one MLS start since July 9. He did, however, play 90 minutes for the Tacoma Defiance in their regular-season finale on Sunday.
“He’s a promising young centerback,” Schmetzer said. “He just needs more experience and has a great future.”
Reed Baker-Whiting started and scored for the United States U19s in a 3-0 win over Malta. Baker-Whiting appeared to spend time at both wingback positions.