TUKWILA — Fredy Montero set the tone for this week’s Sounders FC training before coach Brian Schmetzer even set dates for the sessions.

“The next two weeks are going to be super competitive,” Montero said, interjecting his thoughts during a postgame media availability with teammate Cristian Roldan on Sunday.

The Sounders finished in a 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, clinching the No. 2 seed in MLS’s Western Conference playoff bracket. They will play seventh-seeded Real Salt Lake on Nov. 23 at Lumen Field. The sides split their regular-season meetings, each winning on their home field.

“Everybody would like to be in that game,” Montero said of the playoffs. “So, the level of training is going to be high in order to be 200% prepared for what is coming.”

Players were given a two-day break, making Wednesday at Starfire Sports in Tukwila Day 1 of the team’s lead-up to the postseason. But there weren’t enough players on the field to fill a typical game-day roster.

The Sounders have six players honoring international call-ups through Nov. 16 and three players in Nico Lodeiro (knee), Raul Ruidiaz (hamstring) and Joao Paulo (hamstring) out with injury. Schmetzer is utilizing players from USL side Tacoma Defiance to fill holes and help the first team prepare.

Advertising

The target date is Nov. 19. That’s when Schmetzer hopes to have international players in Roldan (U.S.), Alex Roldan (El Salvador), Yeimar Gomez Andrade (Colombia), Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador), Danny Leyva (U.S. Under-20) and Nouhou (Cameroon) back and all injured players able to participate in portions of training to home in on RSL.

“This is almost like an audition for preseason next year,” Schmetzer said of what he told the Defiance players, head coach Wade Webber and assistant Michael Morris of their participation this week. “Who are the guys that performed well over the course of the Defiance season? Who are the guys who should join us during the preseason? This is the perfect opportunity for some of those players to come and show the first-team staff what they can do. It helps us out and it might help them out.”

Lodeiro doubtful

There’s time, but Schmetzer reiterated Wednesday that Lodeiro being ready for the playoff opener is a longshot. Lodeiro, 32, underwent right knee arthroscopy surgeries in May and September. He started and played 73 minutes in a draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy earlier this month but swelling in his knee hasn’t subsided.

“With any surgery, there’s always complications,” Schmetzer said. “There’s always good moments. We’ll just have to see.”

While Lodeiro may be out, the prognosis is better for Ruidiaz and Joao Paulo. Ruidiaz started and played 60 minutes against the Galaxy and is expected to be able to start against RSL.

Joao Paulo suffered his injury against LA but played the full 90.

Advertising

Ruidiaz watch

Garth Lagerwey, the Sounders president of soccer and general manager, told KJR 950 AM recently that the club exercised its 2022 option on Ruidiaz’s contract. It signals the club will sign him to an extension that could effectively have the striker end his career in Seattle, Schmetzer intimating the same.

But Telemundo Sports’ Diego Montalvan confirmed earlier this week that Liga MX side Cruz Azul is still pursuing Ruidiaz. The Peruvian was a Golden Boot winner in Mexico’s top-flight league before signing with the Sounders in 2018.

“Anytime a player has a good season, like Raul has, he generates interest from other teams,” Schmetzer said Wednesday of Ruidiaz, who had a club-record-tying 17 goals this season. “Other teams are throwing feelers out there. I’m sure Raul’s agent is working hard on getting those feelers published. It’s part of the deal. I’m not concerned.”

No beef

Sounders wingback Brad Smith said the emotion he showed when subbed off in the 63rd minute against Vancouver on Sunday wasn’t directed at Schmetzer. The coach put Leyva on with the score deadlocked at a goal apiece and the Sounders needing a win to regain the top spot in the West.

“It’s a passionate sport and no one wants to come off the field,” Smith said Wednesday. “I wasn’t angry at coming off. I just wanted to stay on and try to help the team win. That’s all us players can try and do. Schmetz is the coach at the end of the day. He makes the decisions and us players have got to respect that. It’s a passionate game. We knew we had to win and obviously I wanted to stay on the field and try to help the team score and win the game.”