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Sounders itching to play real matches again

Raúl Ruidíaz is questionable for Sunday’s season opener.

Kayla Mehring

TUKWILA — As the second phase of preseason nears its end, the Seattle Sounders seem to be very ready to get back to playing actual games. They, of course, got a taste of that almost three weeks ago with the Club World Cup and it’s been an awkward transition going back to all practice and no play.

Wednesday’s session featured some hybrid of small-sided drills and full-sided scrimmaging where the players would line up in what was effectively a half-court arrangement and then simulate breakaways going in the opposite direction.

Nicolás Lodeiro and João Paulo both looked very good during these drills, which seemingly bodes well for the veterans.

Also notable about the drills was that Jackson Ragen continues to play with the presumed starters, just as he did against Al Ahly and then in the preseason game against Louisville last weekend. Schmetzer has been saying all along that the centerback starters could be fluid.

“It continues to be a camp battle until one of them takes hold of it,” Schmetzer said. “Jackson has worked his way ahead a little bit. It’s good to have that competition.”

Although Xavier Arreaga has been a near guaranteed starter whenever available over the past two seasons, the Ecuador international is apparently taking the situation in stride.

“They all want to play,” Schmetzer said. “There’s that internal disappointment. The trick is turning that disappointment into something positive. Xavi continues to work hard and that’s the expectation.”

Ruidíaz questionable for Sunday

The most notable absence from training has been Raúl Ruidíaz, who has not been a full participant for about a week since tweaking his hamstring. Ruidíaz missed Wednesday’s session with what Schmetzer deemed a “pro day” but has not been ruled out for the Colorado Rapids match.

“He’s got to hit some markers on Friday and Saturday for me to put him in the group,” Schmetzer said. “If he does, I’ll put him in the group because we need to score some goals.

“I haven’t ruled him out because he wants to play. He’s killing me with ‘coach, coach, coach’ but we have to be smart.”

Ruidíaz was limited to just 1,304 minutes last season while battling several muscle injuries and has missed 24 of the Sounders’ last 44 MLS matches dating to 2021.

Rusnák returns

There was a bit of an injury scare on Tuesday when Albert Rusnák was dismissed from training a little early after rolling his ankle. But the midfielder was back the following day and training fully.

“Albert is fine,” Schmetzer said. “He could have trained yesterday but again I’m just being super cautious.”

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