Cristian Roldan skipping national team friendlies to stick with the Sounders is another sign the team has become increasignly aware it must start putting up some points in order for any summer player additions to have a bearing on this current season
Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei joined his teammates for another spirited round of practice sessions this week they hope translates into something more during games.
What’s become increasingly clear, both to Frei and others, is that their season has gotten late much earlier than usual. Frei sounded that alarm after a loss in Portland a few weeks back and acting team captain Cristian Roldan furthered the urgency this week by declining to play in upcoming friendlies with the United States Men’s National Team so he could stay here.
Both understand that regardless of whatever six-and-seven-figure talents get added once the July transfer window opens, the current squad needs to put some balls in the net and points on the board for any new players to matter this year.
“We’ve been working hard, trying to score goals in training,’’ Frei said Thursday. “We’re trying to push each other. We’ve had a really good, small set of games with high intensity at a very difficult, good level.’’
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Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said his players have been “ornery’’ all week over their 2-6-2 start. Schmetzer challenged his players to do more after last Saturday’s loss, though admittedly stopped short of calling them out.
The reality is, there’s a limit to how much calling out Schmetzer can do with a depleted roster relying on several players – Handwalla Bwana, Alex Roldan, Jordan McCrary and Henry Wingo among others – that might be playing with Sounders2 if not for all the injuries and absences.
Some of that will change this Saturday in an away match at Real Salt Lake, with striker Will Bruin returning from a torn plantar fascia in his foot, and midfielder Victor Rodriguez finally making his season debut. Rodriguez stood out when healthy last season.
“He’s more dynamic,’’ Schmetzer said of what Rodriguez can add. “I mean, he drives at people. He’ll be on the half turn and get forward. He’s a good passer of the ball.’’
Schmetzer added that Rodriguez’s years in the Spanish La Liga have made him savvy about what not to do in certain situations. The Sounders have given up too much ball possession with ill-fated, rushed decisions.
The Sounders have now lost midfielder Bwana for likely the remainder of the pre-World Cup schedule with a mid-foot sprain. So, any new additions are certainly welcome because the math does not favor the Sounders if they keep failing to put up points.
The earliest any new international players would realistically be signed and actually play here would be the latter half of July. Lodeiro debuted on July 31 two seasons ago, while Kelvin Leerdam last season started on July 19.
That means the Sounders may have to wait eight more matches – until a July 21 home game against Vancouver – for further attacking help to arrive. That would leave only 16 matches to go in their season. So far, they’ve managed eight points their first 10 games and at that pace would have only 14 points by the Vancouver contest.
And if that’s the case, even another incredible finish like in 2016 and 2017 likely won’t be enough.
Two years ago, starting with Lodeiro’s first game, the Sounders went 8-2-4 down the stretch. Last year, they went a near-identical 8-2-5 after adding Leerdam – averaging an impressive 1.93 points per game.
But even if this year’s Sounders once again replicate 1.93 points per game over their final 16 contests, it would leave them with only 45 points on the season unless their current pace changes before that July 21 game against Vancouver.
Last year, 45 points would have put them in eighth place and one point out of the playoffs. Two seasons ago, it would have been good for seventh place and a point out of the playoffs as well.
Which is why Roldan skipped out on the national team friendlies.
“Things are rough at the moment here in terms of our standings, in terms of our play,’’ Roldan told reporters this week. “Just to have another guy down, it can drain the team. We felt it was in all of our best interests for me to stay.’’
Like a growing number of Sounders, he understands it’s getting late early for this current roster to change the equation.