TUKWILA — The Sounders are riding a high from a two-match winning streak, which not only earned them the Cascadia Cup with a win over Portland, but also a second-place ranking in the Western Conference with Sunday’s win over the LA Galaxy.
That’s a positive feeling to hold onto as the Sounders (13-8-7) prepare to play the Colorado Rapids (8-14-6) on the road at 6 p.m. Saturday in a game that was rescheduled due to inclement weather and now falls during the FIFA international break. Seattle will be without 10 players due to national team call-ups and faces a different Rapids team under new coach Robin Fraser.
“Every time you string together a couple wins, a little bit of the pressure is lifted,” midfielder Harry Shipp said. “I think you’re able to play a little for you and that’s what we’re hoping for this weekend. Obviously, every game that you come into you want to win, but you just kinda have that built momentum where you feel like things are going to work out for you.”
Saturday’s match was originally scheduled for April 10 but was rescheduled due to inclement weather in Colorado at the time. It will be the second meeting between the two teams this season.
On Saturday, the Sounders will be without star forward Jordan Morris and midfielder Cristian Roldan, who have been called up to the U.S. national team in advance of friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay. Eight other Sounders have been called up: Raul Ruidiaz (Peru), Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador), Brad Smith (Australia), Gustav Svensson (Sweden), Jordy Delem (Martinique), Joevin Jones (Trinidad & Tobago), Nouhou (Cameroon U-23 national team) and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (U.S. U-17 national team).
The Rapids will be without forwards Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio, defender Abdul Rwatubyaye, 17-year-old defender Sebastian Anderson and 18-year-old midfielder Cole Bassett due to international commitments. Goalkeeper Tim Howard was also listed as questionable as of Thursday with a hamstring injury.
“Of course, I wish that we didn’t have to play this game,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said Thursday. “I mean; we would not be playing a game right now. The thing that’s frustrating is that we got robbed of a bye week essentially. I think every team would want to have its full strength in every game for sure.”
While the large handful of missing players will surely be noticed, the situation allows other players to step up and not only grab playing minutes but also leadership experience.
“It’s not ideal,” Shipp said of the international break. “I don’t have a strong opinion either way because I’m not one of the guys that’s traveling or having to deal with that. But for me, in my career, I’ve been a beneficiary of it. For me, at times like this, it’s an opportunity to take control and be more of a leader on the field and I think that’s something that I’m excited about.”
After falling to Seattle 2-0 in March, the Rapids went on an eight-match losing streak. In the middle of that streak, the team fired head coach Anthony Hudson and named assistant coach Conor Casey the team’s interim head coach. Fraser took over his role in late August.
Fraser, who previously was an assistant coach with Toronto FC, was the fourth overall pick in the 1996 MLS draft and played for the Galaxy, the Rapids and the Columbus Crew. Saturday’s match against Seattle will be his second at the helm and first home match with the Rapids. He led Colorado to a 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 31 in his Rapids debut.
“From the last time, everything changes,” Sounders defender Kelvin Leerdam said. “They have a new coach, a new system maybe, everything changes. So it’s difficult to say how’ll they’ll be. It’s different because a week ago they signed a new coach and he has new ideas. So, even if we have plans and everything on paper, we never know what the new coach will do.”