Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro has a sprained right midfoot and will miss Wednesday night's crucial CONCACAF Champions League match against Chivas in Guadalajara.
GUADALAJARA, Mexico — A key offensive cog will be missing from the Sounders attack Wednesday night, as Nicolas Lodeiro is sidelined for the decisive CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal match against Chivas with a right midfoot sprain.
The injury, effectively to a tendon between the metatarsal bones in Lodeiro’s foot, is not expected to be long term. Still, Lodeiro did not accompany the team to Guadalajara and likely won’t play this weekend against FC Dallas either. His foot issues have been building for some time and his status for the Chivas game was uncertain as of Monday morning.
But after undergoing an early morning bone scan in Seattle to determine the cause of inflammation in the foot, the Sounders figured it best to keep him off that afternoon’s flight. The news, though terrible timing for a Sounders team that leads the aggregate Champions League series 1-0 heading into Wednesday’s match at Chivas Stadium, wasn’t as bad as the team first feared.
“We thought it might have been a stress fracture,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “But we had a bone scan and found out that wasn’t it. But it’s still inflamed enough that he didn’t make the trip.”
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Schmetzer said it’s “a big blow” for a team that will now be leaning heavily on Magnus Wolff Eikrem in the midfield alongside Clint Dempsey and what could possibly be former University of Washington product Henry Wingo making a pivotal start. The decision on whether to go with Wingo over Harry Shipp will go a long way towards determining what strategy the Sounders employ in this match.
Using Shipp would be a sign they’re prepared to try to go hard at Chivas offensively in search of what could be a back-breaking away goal. But deploying Wingo and his overall speed element could show the Sounders are more prepared to bunker down and try to preserve the one-goal advantage.
Chivas has struggled to score all season in Liga MX and was snakebit again in the opening leg of this series at CenturyLink Field. The all-Mexican “Goats” — as they are known as by their rabid fan base — are also coming off a heavy schedule in which they’ve won just twice in their first 11 regular season games.
There’s huge pressure on Chivas to win this match, not just to salvage what’s been a disappointing follow to their 2017 Clausura title run, but also to save some pride for Mexican soccer as a whole. No Major League Soccer team has won the Champions League since it was reformatted in 2008, but MLS sides on Tuesday eliminated Mexican squads Tigres UANL and Tijuana from the tournament.
The Sounders can make it a perfect 3-for-3 for MLS and plunge this soccer mad country into a period of prolonged angst and self-refelction unlike anything experienced in quite some time. A victory here for the Sounders could also end the tenure of Argentinian-born Chivas coach Matias Almeyda, who has been under intense scrutiny for the team’s Liga MX downturn.
Unlike their ban on foreign players, the Chivas side has no qualms about hiring — and firing — coaches from other countries.
In other words, the home team will have plenty to play for.
Other than Lodeiro, the Sounders are relatively healthy. They even brought injured right back Kelvin Leerdam with them, though it’s Jordan McCrary who will be starting at that spot. Left back will likely see Waylon Francis get the starting nod over Nouhou as the team tries to keep enough gas in the Cameronian’s tank for the Dallas weekend game.
Otherwise, it’s a full-on compliment that includes Will Bruin up-top, Roman Torres and Chad Marshall at center backs and the best possible defensive midfield combination of Cristian Roldan and Gustav Svensson.
If it’s enough to hang on and win this series, the Sounders would advance to the semifinal against the New York Red Bulls starting at home on April 4.