TUKWILA — Can a reel of missed goals be entertaining?
If the Sounders were winless two matches into their Major League Soccer season, they’d probably shake their heads “No.” But with the team unbeaten after two home matches, newcomer Miguel Ibarra’s misses are worth a reflection for the promise they hold.
The midfielder had three shots on goal in Seattle’s winner against the Chicago Fire and one goal against the Columbus Crew that was withdrawn by VAR (Video Assistant Referee).
“Everybody is telling me I’m getting in good spots and the goals are going to come, so just keep working,” Ibarra said. “Once the first goal gets there, all of the goals are going to keep coming.”
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said the withdrawn goal was a good call because Ibarra was slightly offside. But if it weren’t for that, the play was near perfect — forward Jordan Morris darted with the ball from the wing to midfield and kicked it between two Crew defenders to a racing Ibarra to knock past goalkeeper Eloy Room.
“It was a good buildup sequence,” Schmetzer said. “That’s why we brought him here. To be goal-dangerous and help the squad any way he can, and he’s a good team guy.”
Ibarra, 29, signed with Seattle in February after appearing in 84 MLS matches for Minnesota from 2017-19. The native Californian has participated in past U.S. men’s national-team camps with Morris and Cristian Roldan and formed a friendship with Raul Ruidiaz and Nico Lodeiro last season, which helped Ibarra mesh quickly in Seattle.
Ibarra started the Sounders’ first two MLS matches due to injuries to Lodeiro (tendinitis), Harry Shipp (illness) and Jordy Delem (hamstring) that caused lineup juggling. Morris also didn’t start the MLS opener against Chicago for precautionary reasons.
Seattle (1-0-1) plays at the Houston Dynamo (0-1-1) on Saturday.
“I’m always running,” Ibarra said. “Having the players around me that can actually see the runs that I’m making and always reward me for the runs that I make, it’s brilliant. Once we get Nico back, that’ll be another plus for us. He’s a player that likes to look forward.”
Ibarra added that he’s not worried about not scoring yet.
“I’ve been through it before,” he said. “You’re either hot or you’re cold. It’s just a streak you just get into. Once the first one goes in, the rest will come.”
Lodeiro, Bruin back
Lodeiro and forward Will Bruin (ACL) participated in full training Tuesday at Starfire Sports and should be available Saturday. Bruin is unlikely to play Saturday, though, due to the knee injury he suffered in June 2019. He’s expected to debut with the Tacoma Defiance in USL Championship competition before joining the Sounders’ first-team lineup.
Lodeiro, who traveled home to Uruguay in February as part of his rehab, hasn’t played a competitive match since helping the Sounders win MLS Cup in November.
The Sounders have played four matches without their co-captain Lodeiro, including two against CD Olimpia in the CONCACAF Champions League. In Lodeiro’s absence, Joao Paulo and Roldan played Lodeiro’s position as the attacking midfielder.
Roldan received a mixed review from Schmetzer regarding his performance against Columbus last week. Roldan has also started at right wing and center midfield this season.
“He’s versatile enough and sometimes that works against you,” Schmetzer said. “The No. 10 (attacking midfielder) position, playing in between the lines and some of that nuanced stuff, it takes a while to get used to. Cristian does a good job. But is that his natural position? No.
“Overall, I thought it was good. The best moments we had in attack were when Cristian did get the ball in between the lines.”
The Sounders were already discussing chartering a flight to Houston for the Sounders’ matchup against the Dynamo on Saturday, but the coronavirus outbreak solidified their choice to do so this week.
As part of the new collective bargaining agreement reached between MLS and the league’s players union, teams are obligated to charter eight legs of flight this MLS season and for international competitions such as the Champions League.
“The eight charter legs that the coaching staff and medical staff discussed, Houston was one of the names on the list,” Schmetzer said. “That was always going to be a fluid list because we were supposed to be in Champions League.”
The Sounders dropped their Round of 16 Champions League series to Olimpia.