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Breakout performance may have earned Léo Chú another start

Alex Roldan’s uncertain injury status may open the door further.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Sporting Kansas City William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

TUKWILA — Coming off a resounding 4-1 win over Sporting KC that featured several changes to the starting lineup, the Seattle Sounders could be left with a few tough choices to make. The toughest of those would seemingly be how to keep Léo Chú on the field, coming off his MLS-record-tying four-assist performance.

Chú earned that start mostly through hard work in training, something that continued on Tuesday.

“He’s enjoying himself, he’s in good spirits today,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said following training. “His performance will speak louder than any words. He worked hard today. Nothing I had to say.”

While not the ideal way for it to happen, the decision on how to keep Chú on the field may have been made a little bit easier when Alex Roldán came off at halftime of El Salvador’s Nation’s League match against the United States on Monday with what his coach called “tightness” in his thigh muscle. If Roldán misses any action, it would seemingly make sense to keep Cristian Roldan at right back, move Jordan Morris to right wing and keep Chú at left wing. That would also make it easier to bring Raúl Ruidíaz back into the lineup after he didn’t play in the second of Peru’s two friendlies.

“Léo did really well, when guys play like that you have to reward them,” Cristian Roldan said. “Those are difficult decisions that coaches have to make.

“If Alex can’t make it, I might have to play right back, and that finds a way to get Léo on the field. We’ll see, that’s coach’s decision and I’m happy I’m not making it.”

Of course, this is maybe getting ahead of ourselves. Neither Cristian Roldan nor Schmetzer were ready to rule out Alex Roldán from Saturday’s game against the LA Galaxy.

“We’re working on it,” Schmetzer said. “He’ll be back in today and getting an MRI. I’ll wait until our guys assess him.”

Learning opportunity

For the most part, Cristian Roldan did an admirable job filling in at right back. Although he has played there with some regularity, it’s usually later in games when the Sounders are chasing a goal. This was just his fourth career start there and his first since 2017.

But there was at least one obvious misstep, as he was pretty badly burned on Sporting KC’s goal when he allowed Daniel Salloí to dribble around him and uncork a hard shot that eventually fell to Willy Agada on the rebound.

That was the only time Roldan was dribbled past and he ended up winning 8 of 10 duels and going 2-for-3 on tackles, while also getting forward enough to send in some dangerous crosses and draw the first of left back Ben Sweat’s two yellows.

Roldan said he learned an important lesson about risk assessment.

“When I’m a right mid I can press because I’m not as worried about getting beat,” he said. “But at right back you have to be a little more conservative, you don’t want balls played in behind you. On the goal ... those are the moments I need to learn from and taking the conservative approach away from home is something I had in mind.”

Héber returns to training

While the six internationals have yet to return to training this week — all had games scheduled for Monday or later — there was one player back: Héber.

The forward has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury suffered during training, but was a full participant in Tuesday’s session. Assuming no setbacks, Schmetzer said Héber would be available for selection this week. Héber scored in each of the two games he started this year, while the Sounders went 2-0-0 and outscored their opponents 6-0. Héber still ranks second in the league with 3.1 expected goals, just behind Jordan Morris (3.6).

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