The reigning Western Conference champions appeared set to start the 2021 season without their most important player after reports surfaced Friday that Seattle Sounders playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro could miss the next 3-4 weeks with an unspecified injury.
However, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer gave a more optimistic prognosis on the standout Uruguayan during a video call with reporters, classifying Lodeiro as "day-to-day" and leaving open the possibility that he could feature in the club's preseason scrimmage Saturday against USL Championship side San Diego Loyal.
"Nico and Jimmy have picked up some small little [knocks]," Schmetzer said. "We're working on them, they're day-to-day. We'll see if one or both can make it in tomorrow's game and, if not, we'll reset for next week and, again, we'll try and get them ready for Minnesota.
"I would prefer not to [elaborate], not that it's anything that's critical, but it's still preseason and I want to keep things a little bit closer to my chest now," he added. "Obviously Nico's a big part of our squad, Medranda has come in and done fairly well. The extent of the injuries and what those injuries are, they're on a minor scale, so we'll just proceed forward. I'll answer it the other way, if it was something serious I'd probably get out and front of it and let you guys know, if it was something bad. So little injuries, little niggly things happen during preseason, we're working through it."
Raul Ruidiaz returns
On the positive side, Schmetzer got one of his most crucial players back on the training ground this week. Star striker Raul Ruidiaz rejoined after a lengthy absence due to complications with acquiring his green card kept him in his native Peru for much of preseason.
Ruidiaz has only logged a few training sessions since his return, but Schmetzer said it's been a seamless integration for the club's top goal-scorer. The 30-year-old is getting up to speed on the new two-forward formation that the Sounders have been working on, too.
"I can tell you from his perspective, he's really happy to be back with the group,"Schmetzer said. "Training has been sharp and light the last three days. He has an infectious smile, he's a smart guy, so I'm not really concerned that he's going to be able to pick up on some of the nuances of playing with another [forward] next to him or in the same area. So, not really concerned. Just happy to have him back, that he has his green card and that he's motivated to get back out on the field."
With the 2021 kickoff looming, the Sounders have one more exhibition tune-up Saturday against the Landon Donovan-coached Loyal, who Schmetzer said are bringing enough players to play two full matches.
"We're looking to one more final 90-minute game, physical prep," Schmetzer said. "I'm looking for the final little tweaks on how we're going to set up our team. Raul came back, so we've got to include him in the mix. I've got to get some set-piece defending – there might be a few changes on how we defend set pieces – so we're working through some of those things. There's a lot there, it's not just one or two things that I'm looking at. I'm looking for a complete performance to see where we're at."