TUKWILA — The Seattle Sounders depth will be tested in Saturday’s game against Sporting KC with six players absent due to international duty, but it looks like that won’t be tested quite as much as originally feared. After being forced out of last week’s game with what the team called a “bruised rib”, Jackson Ragen was a full participant in Tuesday’s training session.
The injury seems to have happened around the 22nd minute when Stefan Frei came off his line to claim a free kick and accidentally kneed Ragen in the chest. Ragen was able to stay in the match, but was eventually pulled in the 55th minute when the discomfort became too intense to continue.
“It wasn’t serious by any stretch of the imagination,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Pain was the guide. After two days off and some treatment, he was fine. They’ll give him one more scan before we leave but he looked good today.”
Ragen has started all five of the Sounders’ competitive matches this year, after beating out Xavier Arreaga to play alongside Yeimar Gomez Andrade. He’s been solid defensively, but has really stood out with his passing. He leads the Sounders with 87% accuracy and is second in all of MLS with 7.5 long balls per match (completing 79.4%).
Better on second watch
Immediately after the draw with LAFC, there was a lot of frustration from the Sounders with the result. While still not satisfied with the final score, there were some more positives to be found upon closer inspection.
“I did some reflection after watching it again and the team played pretty well,” Schmetzer said on Tuesday. “We created some half-chances. The two chances they created at the end were clear chances, probably the best chances. When I rewatched, I thought we had a lot of good stuff.”
Albert Rusnák mostly echoed those sentiments but added that the Sounders lost a bit of control in the second half.
“What hurt us in the second half was we tried to score with every possession we had, we played too quick,” he said, adding that it was particularly the case in the final third. “The game opened up and that suited LAFC. We need to keep the ball for a little bit and wear them out.”
That it was the second straight game in which the Sounders failed to score was not lost on Schmetzer, though.
“We’re aware of it,” he said. “Today’s training session was a lot of attacking movements, a lot of finishing.”
João Paulo’s progress
João Paulo has now started all four of the Sounders’ matches, but has seen declining minutes in each of the past two after going a full 90 against Real Salt Lake. While that’s mostly due to him picking up yellow cards in both matches, he’s also been slightly less active.
Asked about João Paulo’s progress since returning from his ACL injury, Schmetzer suggested that the midfielder had hit a bit of a plateau and might be due for some rest.
“João Paulo is an interesting one,” he said. “He’s naturally going to hit a wall at some point. The work he’s done is great, but he hasn’t played consistently in nine months. He’ll be fine, I’m not worried, but we want to be cautious.”