The Sounders FC will be without wingback Brad Smith while striker Raul Ruidiaz is listed as questionable for one of the biggest matches of the season.
Currently first in MLS Western Conference standings, Seattle (15-5-6) hosts the Colorado Rapids on Sunday at Lumen Field. The Rapids (13-4-9) are third in the conference — three points behind the Sounders.
Smith started in the July draw at Colorado’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. But he tested positive for COVID-19 last month, according to his Australian national team coach. The Sounders listed Smith, who is vaccinated, as out for the San Jose road match Wednesday due to the league’s health and safety protocols.
“He’s not in the squad because he’s got COVID,” Socceroos coach Graham Arnold told reporters Saturday, referencing Smith, who was with his national team for World Cup qualifying matches.
“He tested positive only two days ago, so he’s out of the squad for those reasons,” Arnold said. “It’s quite stressful that even though you select the squad, the players get picked, they come in and they’ve got to wait for their (coronavirus test) results and you’ve got to wait for it to be a negative before we can actually see them, and then we move on.”
According to MLS protocols, Smith, who is currently asymptomatic, could return to team activities after 10 days of the date he tested positive. Theoretically, that could be in time for Seattle’s rescheduled game against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Oct. 9 at Lumen Field.
Ruidiaz, who’ll join his Peru national team this week, is questionable for Sunday because of a left hamstring injury. He suffered the strain in the 45th minute of Seattle’s 3-1 win in San Jose.
The striker scored a first-half brace against the Quakes and has 16 goals this season in MLS competitions.
“He’s feeling a little better,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer told reporters Friday. “He’s got a little pain in there, so we’ve got to be careful. Look, the worst thing we could do is roll him out there when he’s not feeling right and then he gets a significant injury.
“For us, the way we’re dealing with it is he’s going to be listed as day-to-day and, look, if he says he’s good and he feels good and the doctor’s say OK, then of course, we’d love him to play. But I’m confident with Will (Bruin), Fredy (Montero), we’ve got options, Leo Chu. We’ve got options.”
Schmetzer said preparation for Colorado has been regeneration and not standard on-field tactics because of the Sounders’ congested schedule and key players logging lots of minutes. The team completed a stretch with four matches on the road, including the Leagues Cup final in Las Vegas.
The Sounders were 2-1 in road MLS matches, bringing their total away wins to nine — tying the franchise record from 2011 when Seattle finished the season 9-3-5 on the road.
But the Rave Green also collected nine wins at home in 2011. This season, the club is a paltry 6-3-4 at Lumen Field.
“It’s been a pretty tough stretch,” Sounders keeper Stefan Frei said Friday. “Some difficult games, a lot of them on the road. A lot of them were mentally draining. Obviously the one in Vegas (championship loss) is one that you kind of get psyched up for and then the huge amount of disappointment there, that saps you. … It’s important that we recognize we had these really good results on the road, and we’ve been exceptional on the road. We’ve had our blunders at home a little bit. Our missed opportunities at home.
“The messaging is strong. We’ve been able to bank points on the road but now we really have to deposit them by getting a (win) at home. That is the objective this weekend. A big game because it’s not just any team, it’s a team that’s right there with us.”
The Sounders are 11-2-1 against the Rapids at home, but the visiting side has surprised multiple clubs this season. The addition of former LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye and FC Dallas forward Michael Barrios has beefed up the team.
The Rapids are on a seven-match road unbeaten streak, midfielder Jack Price has recorded assists on three of the team’s past five goals, and keeper William Yarbrough collected his 11th clean sheet of the season in a 3-0 home win Wednesday against Austin FC.
“They’re a very consistent team,” Schmetzer said. “The guys are up for it. I repeated my message of let’s not let the good effort against Kansas City be wasted in a midweek game against San Jose. Let’s not let the good effort Kansas City and San Jose catch us on Sunday. Let’s not waste the whole effort of a season that has been filled with plenty of challenges. Let’s not waste it by underperforming these last (eight) games of the regular season, especially at home. We want to get back to being good at home.”
NOTE: The Sounders updated their health and safety policies for those attending matches at Lumen Field. People must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative FDA-approved COVID-19 test in order to enter the stadium. Masks are also required in all areas at the facility at all times regardless of vaccination status.