History likely will be made Wednesday for the Sounders.
With eight players called into international duty, Seattle could turn to teenaged signees Danny Leyva, 16, and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, 17, to fill some roles against the Montreal Impact. If either starts, they would be the youngest in club history to do so.
Leyva, a 5-foot-10 midfielder, was the youngest to sign a first-team contract with the Sounders in April at age 15. Since then, he has teamed with Ocampo-Chavez as part of the Sounders Academy U-17 team that won the Generation Adidas Cup and placed second in the CONCACAF Championship with the U.S. U-17 men’s national team.
While Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer has confidence in the players, he would rather play them under different circumstances.
“I’d rather have those young kids in with a really experienced group,” said Schmetzer, who only has three players in goalkeeper Stefan Frei, forward Will Bruin and midfielder Harry Shipp with six or more MLS years of experience.
“If they (Leyva and Ocampo-Chavez) come in as one change to your normal starting group,” Schmetzer continued, “versus one of eight changes to your normal starting group, then it becomes a little dicey. They’re still getting the hang of it but we don’t have a ton of options as far as numbers are concerned. If I need to make a sub, I’m not afraid to use them.”
The Impact is without six players for Wednesday’s game at Stade Saputo in Quebec, including star midfielder Ignacio Piatti, who’s out with a knee injury.
Adding pressure to Seattle (7-3-5) is a need to win. In its past two losses, the Sounders were down two goals at halftime against Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas. The two in Dallas were own goals by defender Xavier Arreaga and left back Brad Smith.
“That has to stop,” Schmetzer said of deficits at the break. “Our objective for tomorrow is to go into halftime at 0-0 or even ahead in the game so that we can dictate what we want to do with subs and tempo of the game. So we can control what happens a little bit more.”
Team captain Nicolas Lodeiro heads the list of eight Sounders players already spread across the globe to participate in various camps, friendlies and competitions. Defenders Jordy Delem (Martinique) and Joevin Jones (Trinidad & Tobago) plan to reunite with their respective national teams after Wednesday’s match to help prepare for CONCACAF Gold Cup play.
Lodeiro, who served a one-game suspension Saturday against FC Dallas due to yellow-card accumulation, is with his Uruguayan national team. It is competing in Copa America in Brazil. Uruguay’s opening match is June 16 against Arreaga’s Ecuador. Peru also made the field, sending Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz to compete with his native country.
Defender Roman Torres was called up by Panama to play in a friendly against Uruguay on June 7 in its capital city, Montevideo. The match will help determine if he makes his country’s final Gold Cup roster.
Americans Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan were named to the men’s national team’s training-camp roster in preparation for the Gold Cup. The final USMNT roster for the tournament is due Wednesday at midnight.
Morris’ participation was questionable because he suffered a hamstring injury at the Sounders’ home match May 15. He missed Seattle’s past three games but was able to participate in full training last week.
The U.S. is in the same Gold Cup group with Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana, meaning Morris and Roldan could face Torres and Jones to advance.
Sounders midfielder Gustav Svensson is with his Swedish national team to play in two UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying matches this month. And Smith was called to his Australian national team to play in a friendly against South Korea in its city of Busan.
The Sounders haven’t had a steady rotation since April because of injuries. It’s a reason why Schmetzer often praises the team for its fast start, bucking past trends.
Seattle opened the season with a club-best five wins. And despite its recent struggles, the Sounders are third in the Western Conference with 26 points. Los Angeles FC is a runaway for the Supporters’ Shield with a league-best 37 points headed into the international break.
“With every challenge, there comes opportunity,” Schmetzer said. “We have an opportunity to be in second place with a victory. That’s what I’m messaging to the guys. But it’s not going to be easy.”