There’s no denying that Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid has some tough decisions to make this week. On Wednesday, the Rave Green face Vancouver Whitecaps FC for the second time in five days, with a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League Knockout Round on the line. The club then travels to play Sporting Kansas City in a critical Western Conference battle on Sunday.
So how will Schmid balance his lineup following Saturday’s victory in Vancouver?
“The number one thing for our team is to make sure that our players continue to improve physically,” he said on Monday. “I think we have guys who are out there playing 90 minutes, but are they 90 minutes fit yet? Probably not. So we don’t want to put any player in a situation where we’re going to jeopardize injuring them. But on the same token, it’s a game we have to win.”
A victory in Wednesday’s CCL clash with the Whitecaps would clinch Seattle’s advancement, something the technical staff has constantly reiterated as a high priority this season. Of course, the Sounders are also fighting for their playoff lives with four games remaining in the regular season.
The good news for Seattle is that, because of the numerous signings they made this past summer, Schmid has plenty of viable lineup options to choose from.
Marco Pappa, Chad Barrett, Andy Rose, Lamar Neagle and Erik Friberg are among the seasoned veterans who didn’t even see the field on Saturday in Vancouver. According to Schmid, Friberg should be ready for Wednesday’s game despite suffering an injury in training last week. Meanwhile, Nelson Valdez played just 25 minutes Saturday night, Cristian Roldan came on in the 74th minute and Leo Gonzalez came on with five minutes remaining.
For their first three CCL matches, Sounders FC made at least eight changes to the starting lineup that had taken the pitch in MLS action during the previous weekend. They relied on young players such as Darwin Jones and Aaron Kovar, who have made nine league appearances apiece and played in all three Champions League matches this season.
According to Schmid, there will likely be fewer changes to the lineup this time around.
“There’s a mix that will probably be out there this game a little more so than the past games,” he said. “We’ve got to go out and win the game Wednesday.”