When the Sounders take the field on Saturday evening at Vancouver (10:30 pm ET; TSN, watch LIVE online), it will be their first league game without Mauro Rosales in the starting lineup since May 28.
In the 15 games in between, Seattle have posted a 9-2-4 record. When one factors in the club’s continued success in the CONCACAF Champions League and the US Open Cup, it’s difficult to understate the importance of Rosales and his 12 assists.
The MVP candidate suffered a sprained MCL in the dying moments of last week’s match against D.C. United. While he has jogged in a straight line the past couple days, the Argentine veteran still considers himself three weeks away from taking the field again.
All of this leaves Seattle with a gaping hole in the right midfield where their No. 10 used to stand.
Lamar Neagle, who finds himself second-choice in the pecking order on the left behind Uruguayan Álvaro Fernández, would be an obvious choice to switch sides against Vancouver. Brad Evans has also played right midfield in his Seattle career, while Erik Friberg has played wide early in the season and is likely close to returning from his hip flexor injury.
Mike Fucito (ankle) trained this week while James Riley (concussion) rode a bike. Riley is listed on the injury report as questionable.
The Sounders sealed a spot in the playoffs with the 1-1 tie between Sporting Kansas City and the Philadelphia Union on Friday night, and a win at Vancouver would go a long way as the club continues to challenge the LA Galaxy for the Supporters Shield. But against a Whitecaps team with so many weapons, victory won’t be easy, especially with the Canadian side fired up for their final game at Empire Field.
“I think when you get into the environment of Empire Stadium and it’s their last game there and you hear the crowd and feel the emotion, that’ll get it going for our guys,” said Seattle coach Sigi Schmid. “There’s maybe less verbiage that’s exchanged between us and Vancouver than there is between us and Portland, so maybe it’s going to take the stadium environment to really put the kicker on it.”
And there’s the small matter of the Cascadia Cup to keep in mind as Seattle attempt to win their fifth consecutive road game in all competitions. The Cup is presented to the team with the best record between historical regional rivals Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver.
Seattle took the bus north Friday morning, planning to practice later that afternoon in advance of Saturday’s 7:30 pm PT kickoff. It’s a one-way bus trip – the Sounders will leave directly from Vancouver to Guatemala for their Sept. 27 CCL date with Comunicaciones. In an attempt to reduce the strain of the travel, the club will charter flights in both directions.
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewWinnerMLS