TUKWILA – Performance – good and bad – was a keyword for the Sounders in their final training sessions before hosting Sporting Kansas City on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer wants a solid performance from his team. But that will have to come without first-choice center back Roman Torres, who’s serving a 10-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, according to MLS.
“We do need to string together some good performances,” Schmetzer said. “Hopefully that turns into three points (wins) and we start that little bit of momentum shift that we need to end the season.”
Seattle (11-6-5) is used to wins and being in good health in the second half of its MLS seasons. The club was 14-2-1 after the MLS break last year and went from last place to win the league championship in 2016.
The Sounders have posted a 4-2 record since their return to MLS play after a 17-day break against Vancouver on June 29.
But the metrics the club uses to evaluate its team such, as quality goal-scoring chances, clean sheets, and working the ball in the penalty box, have been inconsistent.
A microcosm of Seattle’s underlining issues that can get covered up happened in a road loss to Sporting Kansas City in May. The Sounders received goals from Kelvin Leerdam and Raul Ruidiaz. But their defense couldn’t prevent a hat trick from midfielder Johnny Russell, who guided a depleted Kansas City side to a 3-2 victory.
“They have good engines in the midfield,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “But I don’t think, necessarily, one game dictates how we feel about them. Overall, since we’ve been in the league, our games against their team have always been tough ones.”
In addition to Torres, the Sounders will be without defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson (hamstring) and likely without Ruidiaz (concussion). A positive is left winger Victor Rodriguez (hamstring) returned to full training Saturday and is listed as questionable for selection.
Schmetzer confirmed defender Xavier Arreaga will replace Torres in the starting lineup.
“It’s an unfortunate incident that Roman is not here and we will miss him,” said Schmetzer, who added Torres spoke with the team Friday before the suspension was announced. “Yes, we need to win a few more games and there are tough games down the stretch. But we were able to overcome a big loss in Chad Marshall (retirement) and I go back to the strength of the group. Xavier was chomping at the bit to play. He was pushing to play. Now it’s his chance to play and show everybody what he can do.”
Through all their inconsistences, the Sounders remain second in MLS Western Conference standings with 38 points. It’s a key position as the club aims to host as many home matches as possible in the new, loser-out MLS playoff format.
SKC (6-9-7) is outside the postseason picture. It’s 10th in the West with 25 points, but just six points separate Sporting KC from the seventh and final playoff spot in the West.
“(Seattle) is a different team than when we played them and we’re different as well,” said SKC coach Peter Vermes via audio provided by MLS. “They’re one of the best teams in the league at the moment. Playing them at their place is going to be a very difficult match for us.”
Torres held news conference Saturday to share, in Spanish, more details regarding his suspension. He said he was tested in April and told of the results in July prior to joining his Panamanian national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup competition, but was not told the specific substance or ingredients, according to a translation.
Torres, 33, stated Friday in a release he would comply with the suspension. But on Saturday he said he is consulting with his lawyer and agent regarding an appeal to lift or lessen the number of games. Torres, who’ll also be fined about $150,000, suspects a cold medicine could have caused him to test positive for a banned substance.