Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who has missed the past two matches after suffering a sprained left knee in a match May 12, will be out indefinitely after developing a blood clot as a complication related to the injury, coach Brian Schmetzer said Friday.
The setback for the keeper wasn’t the only negative injury update Friday, as Schmetzer said midfielder Nico Lodeiro had undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to deal with lingering inflammation.
The Sounders already had planned to shut down Lodeiro until June 19 but didn’t give an updated timeline following the surgery.
“It’s going to be an extended time because of the nature of the surgery,” Schmetzer said when asked when Lodeiro can return. “It’s not going to be in the next two to three weeks. We’ll be cautious with the rehab and make sure when he’s ready, he’s totally ready.”
Though losing Frei and Lodeiro for an extended period is an obvious loss, the Sounders have proven their resilience in weathering injuries. Seattle, which sits atop the Western Conference standings with 17 points through seven matches, has filled the void at goal with backup keeper Stefan Cleveland the past two matches, and Lodeiro has appeared in only one match this season.
“They’re going to rally around Stef,” Schmetzer said. “We have all the faith in Stefan Cleveland. We’ve been without them for a couple games. It’s not good news, but it’s something we’re going to confront, and we’re gonna just keep our next man up period going.”
Sounders midfielder Kelyn Rowe echoed Schmetzer’s sentiment. The league veteran has started the past five matches in place of Lodeiro. Schmetzer has also divvied up minutes to Danny Leyva and Josh Atencio in the midfield, the latter suffering an injury and not expected to return until after the FIFA break in June.
“We’re all bummed,” Rowe said. “These are very influential guys. They’ve been here for a long time and they’ve been part of this great success that Seattle has had in the past and is now in the present. It’s a big loss for us not only on the field for games, but every day in the locker room and every day in training these guys — these are our two captains that are there. They’re the ones pushing guys and making sure guys are accountable (to) each other. … But other guys on the field need to set up as those leaders and make sure this team doesn’t drop in any way.”
The Sounders schedule will likely benefit the club as it deals with being without their stars for a longer period than expected. Seattle (5-0-2) hosts Austin FC (2-4-0) at Lumen Field on Sunday. It’s the final game for the Sounders until a road match against the Los Angeles Galaxy on June 19.
Instead of looking for reinforcements after the FIFA break, the Sounders replacements can make any needed adjustments for the summer segment of the season. That is particularly true for Cleveland, who’ll make his third MLS start since starting five matches for the Chicago Fire FC in 2018.
“We make sure we give as much confidence in Cleveland as we can,” said Rowe of Cleveland, who collected a clean sheet in his club debut start against LAFC on May 16. “He’s obviously took it very well and has done a good job in this time that he’s had, and obviously with the time going forward that he’s going to have. He was prepared very well, both mentally and physically, and he showed that in the past two games.”
Sunday will be the first time Seattle plays the expansion Austin club but there are some familiar faces on the technical staff.
Los Verdes high performance director David Tenney had a similar position for the Sounders before leaving for the NBA in 2017. Austin’s head strength and conditioning coach, Chad Kolarcik, held the position in Seattle and left in 2017 to work for the Colorado Rapids before accepting the position in Texas.
“It’ll be a good test for us,” Schmetzer said.
But the staff
Seattle’s fast start has vaulted Schmetzer into the MLS coach of the year race. When asked about the topic on Friday, Schmetzer pivoted to discussing his staff. He campaigned heavily to retain the unit during the offseason, keepers coach Tom Dutra and assistants Gonzalo Pineda, Preki and Djimi Traore, with all receiving new contracts along with Schmetzer.
“It is a staff that is very committed to winning,” said Schmetzer, who’s led Seattle to four of the past five MLS Cup title matches, winning twice with the same group. “We understand the culture of this club. They are, we are, a tremendous staff. I don’t want to say we’re the best staff in MLS, but privately, I think we are.”