Seattle Sounders shake off injuries, confident in ‘next man up’ as depth proves vital ahead of Leg 2 of conference semifinals

When Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan and defender Chad Marshall exited in the first half of the 2-1 first leg loss of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Portland Timbers, there was no panic. Frustration and disappointment perhaps, but never any panic. It’s “next man up” as it has been all year for the Sounders.

Waylon Francis entered for Roldan on the left wing, but whose main responsibility was defensive, and Román Torres entered for Marshall at center back. Each helped keep the Timbers off the scoresheet for the remainder for the match and give the Sounders a very manageable opportunity in Leg 2 at CenturyLink Field on Thursday (7:30 p.m. PT; FS1, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS).

“Román came on and did a good job,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “I enjoy the fact that he came on and brought a bit of physicality to the game. There were some good moments there. Certainly, that pairing [with Kim Kee-hee] hasn’t played a lot together, so we’ll do what we can to get them in sync, but they’re two very, very talented players. Román was waiting for his chance, and here it is. He’ll be ready.”

Torres’ appearance was his first since he started at the LA Galaxy on Sept. 23. The hulking Panamanian international has been limited to only 13 matches this season, but he will almost certainly be called upon on Thursday as Marshall underwent meniscus surgery on Tuesday.

Seattle Sounders shake off injuries, confident in ‘next man up’ as depth proves vital ahead of Leg 2 of conference semifinals -

Torres slides in for a challenge on the Timbers’ Jeremy Ebobisse | USA Today Sports

“He told me he wanted to play,” Schmetzer said of Torres. “He didn’t want anything bad to happen to Chad, absolutely, because he’s a good teammate. But it was his chance now to help the team win. Román is a team guy, he wants the team to be successful, and he loves it when he’s on the field and helping the team be successful.”

Midfielder Harry Shipp, who was recovering from a hamstring injury, replaced Francis for the final few minutes of the match. The cameo was Shipp’s first since he came on as a substitute against the Philadelphia Union on Sept. 19. Before his injury, Shipp had started 10 consecutive matches and was an important catalyst in the Sounders’ MLS-record nine-match winning streak.

With Roldan a game-time decision on Thursday because of a hip flexor strain, Shipp may get a chance in the starting lineup for Leg 2.

“I wanted to get [Shipp] more time, but because Chad went down, I couldn’t burn a third sub with 15, 20, 30 minutes to go, it just wasn’t possible,” said Schmetzer. “So that’s the reason why he didn’t come on any earlier in the game. I wanted to get him back up on the horse. He certainly is an effective player. Guys were dead at that part of the game. Any fresh legs that would have come on, they were going to have an impact, and Harry certainly made an impact with some of his possession. The ball he laid for Víctor [Rodríguez], I thought was great, it gave us that last chance at the end. I expect more out of Harry for sure.”

Seattle Sounders shake off injuries, confident in ‘next man up’ as depth proves vital ahead of Leg 2 of conference semifinals -

Shipp celebrates a goal against Sporting Kansas City in September | Mike Fiechtner

Added Shipp: “I was trying to get myself back for the playoffs when I first had the injury. I wanted to be healthy so in case something like this happened, I was ready to go and help this team advance to the next round.”

Shipp & Co. are also confident heading into the return leg, despite the 2-1 deficit. The Sounders, aside from what Schmetzer referred to as “a couple minutes of dysfunctionality,” played fairly well under difficult circumstances and scored an all-important away goal.

“[The feeling in the locker room] is the same it’s been the whole second half of the year,” said Shipp. “We approach every game like we’re going to win. We were disappointed that we lost last game. Even though we were playing away against a good team, I think we felt like we could have gotten a result.

“We’re approaching it like we’re down 2-1 at halftime of a game. We’ve proven the last two years that I’ve been here that being down 2-1 at half doesn’t mean a whole lot. We’re going to get those goals when we need them to help us win the game.”

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