Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer is committed to changing his starting formation in the absence of having forward Jordan Morris as the left winger. The only problem is the coach doesn’t have his star player to try out the new configurations.
Raul Ruidiaz remains in his native Peru awaiting paperwork for his U.S. green card to be finalized. The striker has been Seattle’s leading goal-scorer since he was signed as a designated player in 2018 and was named to MLS’s Best XI team last year.
“We need to solve that. He needs to get into camp,” Schmetzer said during a conference call with media Friday. “There are some frustrations there because (of) the different tactics of trying to play with two forwards. We’d love to have him here. But he’ll pick it up fairly quickly. I’m sure he’s played with various formations in his career with a guy next to him.”
Morris wasn’t expected to join the Sounders to start the MLS season due to being on loan to Swansea City A.F.C. in Wales. But Morris suffering a season-ending knee injury in February solidified the need to redesign the starting lineup to best capitalize on the Sounders’ talent, Schmetzer said.
In an interview with Pulso Sports, a bilingual media outlet, Ruidiaz said he’s training with his Peruvian national team. The Sounders intend to keep in contact with the federation to track Ruidiaz’s fitness.
“They have been putting me through a very good workout program, one which I am already thankful for,” Ruidiaz told Pulso Sports. “I am focused on having a great preseason. I believe that is the foundation of every soccer player so it prepares for anything this year could bring. If I don’t do a good job in the preseason, there are too many negatives which could derive from that.”
The Sounders played their first intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday and will open preseason games next week with a closed-door match against the Tacoma Defiance at Starfire Sports in Tukwila.
Seattle will no longer travel to Los Angeles for camp in April. The club will instead continue training in Tukwila and host matches against the Phoenix Rising FC (April 4) and San Diego Loyal SC (April 10) to lead up to the MLS opener on April 16 at Lumen Field.
Sounders defender Nouhou (Cameroon) and Defiance forward Alec Diaz (Puerto Rico) were called up for international duty. Cameroon will play two Africa Cup of Nations qualifier matches while Puerto Rico is competing in two 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers later this month.
Schmetzer was complimentary about both players’ performance so far in training camp. Diaz, 19, is among the young players looking to nab one of the final first-team roster spots.
Leading the pack is Defiance midfielder Reed Baker-Whiting but Abdoulaye Cissoko, a center back, could pull ahead if he performs well in the upcoming exhibition matches. One glitch with Cissoko is the Sounders need an international roster spot in order to sign the Frenchman.
One member of the Sounders camp tested positive for COVID-19 before training camp opened earlier this month. No further details were given aside from the person having recovered and rejoined the team.
None of the players and the majority of the technical staff are ineligible to get vaccinated under Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan for the state of Washington. Schmetzer said he can sense a renewed optimism within the club now that there is a vaccine available, but there haven’t been any conversations about whether players will get the shot once able.
“When it’s our turn, I’m hoping that everybody gets the vaccine,” Schmetzer said. “We have not talked specifically about a player who might not believe in vaccinations. We haven’t gone into specifics there. But I can (say) it would be my council to that individual person to point out the benefits to that and the reasons why they might consider doing it.”