Sounders FC captain Nico Lodeiro is available for selection for Sunday’s match against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
But he likely won’t start.
Lodeiro, who was named to MLS’s Best XI team last season, strained his left quad during preseason training camp. The midfielder missed the Sounders’ opening two matches, and coach Brian Schmetzer anchored the midfield with Josh Atencio — a 19-year-old from Bellevue.
Atencio shined in the role despite the starts being the first of his career. He totaled 11 minutes in five appearances during the Sounders’ truncated 2020 season.
“Josh has earned another start,” Schmetzer said Friday during a video conference call with media. “The kid has played well, so I’m happy for him.”
In terms of results, the Sounders (1-0-1) are showing well defensively to open the season. They bagged four goals in a shutout against Minnesota United FC on April 16. The Rave Green collected a 1-1 draw on the road against LAFC. The goal conceded was off a set piece in the second minute.
“One thing that comes to my attention the most is (Josh’s) will to do what is asked,” said Sounders midfielder Joao Paulo, as translated from Portuguese during a video conference call with media Friday. “Not only by the coaching staff, but also what he hears from the more experienced players in the team. It’s been a pleasure to play side-by-side with him.”
Lodeiro is expected to make an appearance in the match. He was able to participate in full training this week along with forward Fredy Montero (left hamstring) and midfielder Jimmy Medranda (left quad), who were also out with injuries.
Sunday’s match against the Galaxy (2-0) will likely be more challenging defensively than the past two for the Sounders because of forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. He won back-to-back Player of the Week awards, totaling five in two matches.
The mark already eclipses Chicharito’s output last season. As Mexico’s all-time leading goal scorer, the striker faced harsh criticism for not living up to the approximate $9 million Designated Player contract Hernandez signed in January 2020.
“The guy got beat up last year,” Schmetzer said. “Was it all his fault? Was there some issues with the entire team? It’s not just a one-man game. … He’s a really great guy and I’m really happy for him.
“It makes me nervous. We’ve got to plan for an in-form forward. A guy who has scored goals in many different leagues. That side of his story might not be the best story for me.”
Getting the shot
As the Sounders boast about being the first-team 100% vaccinated against COVID-19, joining multiple clubs across MLS. Other pro athletes are hesitant to get the shot. Notably, the Seattle Mariners have reported a struggle to get the majority of their players to get it.
“Everybody in this organization, top to bottom, did a great job of believing in the science and wanting to get back to some semblance of normalcy,” Schmetzer said. “This (vaccination) seems to be a pretty logical way to speed things up. So, why wouldn’t you do it?”
Joao Paulo said he didn’t hesitate to get the shot. His native Brazil is second to the U.S. in most deaths due to COVID at 403,781 as of Friday afternoon, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.
“The more people that get vaccinated, the better it will be for everyone,” he said as translated from Portuguese.
COVID metrics are rising in King County and there are reports that Gov. Jay Inslee will roll it back to phase 2 of the Healthy Washington reopening plan. The Sounders confirmed it will not impact their ability to host 7,000 fans for each of their upcoming four home games.
But during a Thursday news conference, Inslee said there’s a possibility for fans to congregate without restrictions if fully vaccinated. The Sounders are exploring having “vaccinated sections” of Lumen Field. The club is starting with a pop-up vaccination hub where ticket holders can receive the shot at any point during the match.
“The vaccine will also give you benefits that you otherwise will not be able to enjoy,” Inslee said. “If you want to be with a group of people at the (Sounders) games, you’re going to be able to do that. Whereas if you’re not vaccinated, you won’t be able to do that.”
- The Sounders will debut their Jimi Hendrix uniforms Sunday. The homage to the iconic musician, who was born in Seattle, features colors and lyrics found on “The Experience” album. The jersey became the fastest-selling in club history when unveiled in March.