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Sounders very close to full strength

Obed Vargas enjoyed his time with the U20s.

Last Updated
3 min read

TUKWILA, Wash. — With a little bit of luck, the Seattle Sounders should be as close to full strength for Saturday’s match against Charlotte FC as they’ve been since the start of the season.

The latest player to rejoin the Sounders is Obed Vargas, who is already back in town after the United States was eliminated from the U-20 World Cup on Saturday. The 17-year-old midfielder played in all five matches and logged 245 minutes while making three starts, including the 2-0 loss to Uruguay in the quarterfinals. Vargas was given a “pro day” on Tuesday but is expected to resume full training on Wednesday and will be available to play on the weekend.

Potentially adding a further boost to the roster is Jordan Morris, who appears to be slightly ahead of schedule in his return from the adductor injury he suffered on May 27. The original diagnosis was that he’d likely miss 2-3 weeks, but Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said Morris might be available as soon as Saturday.

“There might be a glimmer of hope,” Schmetzer said. “We’ll see how his session went today, they might clear him for partial minutes.”

If Morris is able to return, that would leave Sota Kitahara as the only player who is definitely out. As recently as Wednesday, the Sounders were missing seven players due to a variety of injuries, suspensions and international duty.

This respite is unlikely to last, however. The Charlotte FC match will be the last one before the Concacaf Gold Cup begins on June 16 and Morris, Cristian Roldan and Alex Roldan have been named to preliminary rosters. Anyone called into the Gold Cup could miss as many as six league games.

Whether it’s this week or not, the Sounders’ depth will continue to be tested and those players will need to take responsibility for turning around the recent slide.

“Relying on getting players back shouldn’t be our mindset because I’m not sure there’s going to be a point where we have everybody together,” Sounders midfielder Albert Rusnák said. “Injuries are part of the game, international duty is part of the game. Guys will miss games.”

Looking back on Portland tie

Given a few more days to consider Saturday’s 0-0 tie with the Portland Timbers, the Sounders were a bit more blunt in their self-assessment.

“Other than the clean sheet, nothing was really right,” Rusnák said. “We were missing a bit of enthusiasm and energy to drive forward. We didn’t have the confidence we’ve had. It was one of those things that we needed to dig deep and try to score, we needed some magic from someone.”

Schmetzer had a similar thought, calling the tie more of a “glass half-empty” feeling.

At the core of the frustration was an offensive output that yielded just five shots and zero goals, extending a streak of 10 games since the Sounders last scored more than one goal in a game.

“We need that one game where we score three goals,” Rusnák said. “We need that game where we get that first chance and someone puts it in. That pressure of scoring will be lifted off everyone’s shoulders and I think we’ll find it. There are players here who have been scoring goals their whole careers, so we’re not worried about that. It’s just a spell we’re going through. But it’s not about scoring goals, it’s about getting points. It doesn’t matter if we score 4 or 5 goals.”

Lonely at the top

While Sounders fans may have been celebrating LAFC’s loss in the Concacaf Champions League final on Sunday, Schmetzer said he was mostly disappointed.

“I would have liked to see MLS teams go back-to-back,” he said. “It was a big, big opportunity for our league, for LAFC. But it’s hard to win Champions League and they found that out. Credit to Léon, they played well.”

In Schmetzer’s mind, LAFC’s win would have done nothing to diminish the Sounders’ accomplishment of a year ago.

“We’ll always be the first. ... The reality is more MLS teams are going to compete for that tournament. I’d like to see a few MLS wins alongside us. No one will take away what we did.”