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Cristian Roldan says players support Schmetzer’s decision

Brian Schmetzer confirms that Nouhou and Raúl Ruidíaz won’t be participating in training all week nor playing in Saturday’s game.

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RENTON — A day after revealing that Raúl Ruidíaz and Nouhou were not participating in training due to an “internal matter”, Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer confirmed that both players had effectively been suspended for the week and would not be training with the team or participating in Saturday’s game against the Chicago Fire.

Sounder at Heart reported on Tuesday that the players’ punishment stemmed from a locker-room argument they had with Schmetzer after choosing not to participate in the postgame fan acknowledgment. Without directly contradicting that report, Schmetzer sought to clarify the situation.

“It was a ‘coach’s decision,’” Schmetzer told reporters following Wednesday’s training session. “It didn’t stem from any conversation or argument between myself and the two players and it’s a done issue. We are moving forward. Both players understand I’m not upset. We had a good practice today.”

Although they aren’t training with their teammates, both players are continuing to work out with team officials at the Longacres facility and Schmetzer said they would be welcomed back on Sunday.

“If Raúl wants play that spirited to show he can still score, I love it,” Schmetzer said. “He’s our leading all-time scorer at the club, he still has a lot of value this season. He’s going to make the most of it.”

Schmetzer had a similar attitude about Nouhou.

“He’s an emotional kid,” Schmetzer said. “He plays with his emotions on his sleeve. That can be a blessing. Sometimes he can make better decisions. I’m okay with this one. We had a nice conversation, we’re moving forward. He’s a great kid, I love having him on the team.”

Cristian Roldan admitted that it was frustrating for all of this to be happening at the same time that the Sounders are playing arguably their best soccer of the season, but also suggested the timing isn’t all bad.

“We’re able to put it aside a little easier because we won and because we’re doing a little better,” Roldan said. “That’s the exciting part. We’re looking forward and we’re excited for the future and what’s to come out of the situation that happened. Credit to Schmetz for making a decision and we’re all supportive. I think they’re going to be bought in as soon as they’re back in the team.”

Despite whatever turmoil this may have been uncovered, Roldan insisted that it’s not a sign of a splintered team.

“It’s the healthiest relationship we’ve had in our locker room,” he said. “It’s the closest group we’ve ever had. It’s a shame we haven’t been getting good results because our team is so close this year. We’ve done so many different things together. We’ve tried to integrate different cultural aspects into the locker room. It’s a little bit of a shame something like this happened. But I fully expect those guys to integrate back into the team. Those guys are needed if we’re going to go far in the playoffs and do well.”

It’s Roldan’s hope and belief that all of this was a product of players’ competitive nature and that could serve to be a benefit in the long term.

“If we continue to do well, it’s going to create some interesting conversations,” Roldan said, noting that even he and his brother are now in a competition for minutes at right back. “That’s what you want in a team that’s competitive. You want guys fighting for positions. It’s healthy competition. There’s a suspension involved but it’s just fine.”

Availability updates

  • After getting through another full training session, Pedro de la Vega “will be involved” in Saturday’s game, according to Schmetzer. The midfielder has logged just 103 minutes and played in only one of the Sounders’ last 18 matches while dealing with a hamstring injury.
  • João Paulo was back in training on Wednesday after missing Tuesday’s session and is apparently on pace to be available against the Fire.