TUKWILA — Nico Lodeiro closed training Friday with a lob to Fredy Montero for a header. Raul Ruidiaz flashed his signature smile during drills. And Jordan Morris stepped in front of the mic to answer questions from media.

Yes, the Sounders FC are returning to form.

Morris, Ruidiaz and Lodeiro were named to MLS’s Best XI last season but have yet to be on the field together for a match in 2021 due to injuries. Morris is the last to complete his comeback, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer announcing Thursday that the star winger is medically cleared to make an appearance Monday against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Morris tore his ACL in his left knee in February while on loan with English Championship side Swansea City AFC. He had a final checkup with his surgeon in Los Angeles this month and can play without any restrictions.

“It’s been a long year,” Morris said after training Friday at Starfire Sports. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but I’m just excited to be back. Be at the point where I’m at now, ready to play. It feels great.”

Morris said being cleared to play eight months after his March surgery is quicker than expected but the club did target the Galaxy match as a return date. He tore the ACL in his right knee in February 2018 and missed the entire MLS season.

The Sounders (17-8-7) are playing their home finale Monday at Lumen Field and close the regular-season slate with a road match Nov. 7 against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.


MLS’s postseason kicks off Nov. 20. Seattle is jockeying with Sporting Kansas City for the top spot in the Western Conference, which receives a first-round bye and home-field advantage through the conference championship match.

“At this point, I feel really strong,” said Morris, who’s been in full training for about three weeks. “I feel really normal. It’s been so long since I’ve played a game, I’ve watched way too much from the sideline this year, so I’m just excited to be back out on the field and play in front of the fans, again.”

Lodeiro, who’s undergone two minor knee surgeries this season, returned to play Tuesday in the loss to Los Angeles FC. He didn’t show any signs of complications Friday, so he’s on pace to start against the Galaxy.

Ruidiaz, whose 16 MLS goals this season is tied for second in the league, is recovering from a left hamstring injury suffered in a September win against San Jose. Schmetzer said there’s a chance the striker plays Monday. Ruidiaz has missed Seattle’s past six matches.

“We’ve already managed expectations with (Morris),” Schmetzer said. “If we’re defending late and we need the three points (win), he may not play. If we need a goal, of course he’s going to play. If it’s even, if it’s tied, if we’re up three, best-case scenario I can get him on and he can kind of get his feet wet — there’s plenty of scenarios that will happen on Monday that will dictate playing time and what he does.”

Peru passes on Ruidiaz

Ruidiaz wasn’t called up by Peru for upcoming World Cup qualifying matches during the November international break. His hamstring injury likely played a role in the decision, but Ruidiaz also hasn’t been utilized as a starter or tactical focus in the 19 caps he’s made since joining the Sounders.


Schmetzer was gleeful about the prospect of having Ruidiaz for the week leading up to the postseason.

“We can train all the time, together as a family,” Schmetzer said.

Where’s the defense?

The Sounders conceded nine goals in their six matches in October, the biggest leakage of the year. The club was a defensive force to open the season, only conceding three goals in their opening eight games.

Schmetzer said in reviewing film from Tuesday’s 3-0 loss at LAFC, defensive issues were spotted all over the field. Seattle was playing without midfielder Joao Paulo (yellow card accumulation), and left back Brad Smith — a mainstay with center back Nouhou — returned to the starting lineup after a breakthrough coronavirus case and shoulder injury caused the Australian to miss the previous six games.

Seattle plans to work on its defensive schemes headed into Monday’s match. Schmetzer also noted the team needs to rebuild some continuity and chemistry lost due to injuries.

“I’m desperate for the team to play up to their abilities,” Schmetzer said. “That’s going to give us the best chance of winning.”

Bruin, Chu doubtful

Sounders forward Will Bruin is still being evaluated but is a definite scratch against the Galaxy due to reaggravating his right knee injury. Reserve winger Leo Chu, who was signed in August, is listed as day-to-day due to an ankle injury suffered during the LAFC match.