TUKWILA — Yeimar Gomez Andrade continues to make progress in his return to Sounders FC training and should be available for selection Saturday.
The club will travel to play the San Jose Quakes at PayPal Park. It’s the only opportunity to get Yeimar game-fit before the CONCACAF Champions League final series against Pumas UNAM beginning next week.
“There’s certain things that he has to go through, so it’s actually handy that we have a game,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. The CCL final’s opening leg is April 27 in Mexico City.
“We can really test him because training is training and a game’s a game,” Schmetzer continued. “Once he gets through whatever amount of time he plays against San Jose, we’ll make some determinations.”
Yeimar, who was a contender for MLS Defensive Player of Year last season, suffered a high-ankle sprain against the L.A. Galaxy. He was substituted off in the 52nd minute and missed the following six matches, including Seattle closing out the CCL quarterfinal series against Liga MX side Club Leon and surpassing reigning MLS champion New York City FC in the CCL semifinals.
During the preseason, Schmetzer urged Yeimar to be a more vocal leader among the defenders. That extra encouragement helped in how reserve center back Jackson Ragen was able to slide into Yeimar’s position and keep the Sounders respectable defensively.
“(Jackson) will be in the conversation for considerable minutes all year long,” Schmetzer said. “He changes the dynamic a little bit for the team. His choice of passing, his decision-making, who he’s passing the ball to, how he passes, it gives us a little more possession.”
The Sounders were 2-1-3 through all competitions without Yeimar in the lineup and conceded one goal in each match. The sole loss was 1-0 to Inter Miami CF last week when AB Cissoko received the start.
Schmetzer praised Cissoko’s performance against Miami and believes he and Ragen can challenge Yeimar and mainstay defender Xavier Arreaga for the starting slots. The Sounders have a congested schedule in May, which will force some lineup rotations.
“Yeimar is a great player; it’s his job to lose, definitely, but we’ll see,” said Ragen after training at Starfire Sports on Wednesday. “What makes this team so good is the competition. Xavi and I know that Yeimar’s coming back and we could be competing against each other and AB to see who’s going to be the two starters. It’s only going to make us all better players at the end of the day.”