TUKWILA — Multiple young Sounders’ fates could be decided Wednesday.
The club hosts USL champion Sacramento Republic FC in a closed-door scrimmage at CenturyLink Field — one of the final opportunities to impress Seattle’s coaching staff in hopes of being this season’s Danny Leyva.
A former Sounders Academy player, Leyva made headlines when he signed a first-team contract last April at age 15 after a standout preseason showing. While no player in camp is younger than Leyva, now 16, former Academy teammates such as defenders Antino Lopez and Sam Rogers are still in the running to break through to the first team.
Rogers, 20, and Lopez, 17, had solid appearances against Club Atletico Penarol and Loyola Marymount University in scrimmages in California last month. They joined 18-year-old midfielders Chris Hegardt, Danny Robles and Josh Atencio in grabbing quality minutes during the matches.
“We’ve done a good job of bringing players in when the first team has needed them as far as during the summer months and all of that kind of stuff,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said Tuesday. “Preseason is a little bit different because we dangle a carrot of pro contracts in front of them. … There’s a couple of guys that we’re considering. They’ve got to prove to the coaching staff that they earned it.”
Rogers, a Ballard High School alum, spent three weeks on trial with Standard Liege in Belgium last summer. He made 18 starts and played 1,596 minutes for the Tacoma Defiance in 2019.
“It’s all in my hands,” Rogers said recently of trying to grab an MLS contract. He and Lopez in particular are being watched because the Sounders currently have gaps at their center-back position.
“The offseason work I did was good,” Rogers continued. “I feel the most fit I’ve ever felt heading into preseason. (That) gives me an extra boost to show them. On the field, the principles that I’ve been working on, I’m noticing myself more sure, more aggressive.”
In addition to the younger players, Alex Roldan and others are looking at their final opportunities to ink a Sounders first-team contract.
Roldan, the younger brother of Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, had his option declined by Seattle following the 2019 MLS season. The midfielder started five of his nine matches last year and tallied one assist in 442 minutes.
During training camp, Roldan has lined up at right back. Kelvin Leerdam is the returning starter at the position.
“(Alex’s) grasping the position,” Schmetzer said. “He has some of those attacking principles that we like. Now can he get some of the toughness, the meanness, the little bit of bite, edge to his game defensively? So far, he’s done well.”
Lodeiro recovering in Uruguay
Sounders co-captain Nico Lodeiro didn’t return with his club after the 12-day training camp in Southern California last month. Schmetzer said the midfielder instead traveled to Lodeiro’s native Uruguay to receive medical treatment for tendinitis.
“It’s just been a lingering issue,” Schmetzer said. “(Nico) had that towards the end of last year and we, as always, try to pull out all of the stops as far as getting people prepared for the season. Nico wants to make sure that he’s 100 percent for the start of the season.”
Lodeiro, 30, is expected to join the Sounders later this week in Mexico City for the final round of preseason training before opening CONCACAF Champions League play in Honduras against CD Olimpia on Feb. 20.
While in California, Lodeiro was one of the MLS players who participated in announcing the league’s partnership with BodyArmor Sports Drink with Kobe Bryant days before the NBA legend and beverage investor died with eight others in a helicopter crash.
“My condolences to Kobe’s family and everyone involved in this tragedy,” Lodeiro posted Jan. 26 in English and Spanish via his Twitter account. “Still shocked about this sad news I received this morning.”