Sounders FC captain Nico Lodeiro is out with a minor injury suffered during training, coach Brian Schmetzer announced Friday during a conference call with media. Training sessions are closed as part of safety protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so no information was provided or is available.
“It’s not anything critical,” Schmetzer said. “It’s still preseason and I want to keep things a little bit close to my chest now. Nico is a big part of our squad. … The extent of the injuries and what those injuries are, they’re on a minor scale. If it was something serious, I’d probably get out in front of it and let you guys know if it was something bad.”
Lodeiro is listed as day to day. The Sounders open their MLS season April 16 against Minnesota United FC at Lumen Field.
The midfielder didn’t make his 2020 debut with the Sounders until the MLS is Back tournament in July due to tendinitis in his thighs. He closed the season with a strained calf injury but it wasn’t made public until Schmetzer mentioned it in the MLS Cup final postgame interview that Lodeiro played the full 90 minutes hurt.
Seattle lost the championship match 3-0 to the Columbus Crew SC.
The tendinitis followed a lower-back injury that Lodeiro played through in 2019, helping the club win the MLS title that season.
Lodeiro, 32, is the club’s all-time leader in assists (58). He was named to his first MLS Best XI team last season, finishing with seven goals and 10 assists.
In addition to Lodeiro, midfielder Jimmy Medranda is day to day with a non-disclosed injury.
Medranda, 27, was a trade pickup from Nashville in October 2020. He arrived with what the Sounders called “minor injuries” and didn’t make an appearance until he was substituted into a match against the Los Angeles Galaxy in November. He totaled 12 minutes in two matches with Seattle last season.
Injuries have been an issue for Medranda since he suffered a season-ending knee injury while playing for Sporting Kansas City in 2018.
News of Lodeiro and Medranda’s injuries overshadowed the return of Raul Ruidiaz to training camp.
The striker’s arrival from his native Peru was longer than expected due to the process of securing his green card. Ruidiaz passed COVID-19 safety protocols and has participated in training since Wednesday.
Ruidiaz was immediately folded into the team’s new two-forward lineup. The Sounders have played with just Ruidiaz up top since he was signed by the club in June 2018.
“I got to get some reps with him, so that was good,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said. “It’s going to take a little bit more time with the new formation and stuff because of the missed time he had this preseason. He’ll pick it up pretty quickly. It’s like riding a bike.”
Ruidiaz finished the 2020 MLS regular season tied for second in the league in goals with 12 in just 17 matches. He also had four assists.
Ruidiaz, 30, is expected to be selected for Saturday’s preseason finale against the USL Championship side San Diego Loyal SC. The closed-door match will be played at Lumen Field.
The match is the first the Sounders will play that’s 90 minutes and not against each other. The club had a match earlier this month canceled due to Phoenix Rising not traveling over “COVID-19 concerns.”
“It’s crazy that it’s almost mid-April and we’re still in preseason,” Bruin said. MLS seasons typically start in March. “That’s the world we’re in right now. It was a long offseason but it’s been good. This is the best I’ve felt in a really long time in my career and that’s a good feeling for me. I feel excited and rejuvenated.”
HONOR FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS
Saturday’s preseason match is closed to the general public, but the Sounders did provide more than 200 tickets for Virginia Mason Franciscan Health to distribute among its health care workers and their families. The gesture is to honor the ongoing work in helping the community through the public health crisis.
“We are so incredibly proud of, and grateful for, our front-line workers,” said Peter Tomozawa, the Sounders co-owner and president of business operations, in a news release. “As we prepare to welcome fans back to Lumen Field this season, it felt right that these community heroes be the first to see the Sounders on the pitch and experience the new match-day elements dedicated to creating a safe and healthy live sports experience.”
The Sounders were approved to have fans in attendance this season, a first since March 7, 2020, due to the pandemic. The club formatted the stadium to seat 7,000 spectators. Season-ticket members will be permitted to make purchases first beginning Tuesday. Any remaining seats will be open for the general public to purchase beginning Wednesday.