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Fitness key as Sounders slog through busy slate

TUKWILA, Wash. – In the midst of a strength-sapping stretch of 17 matches in 60 days to close out the MLS regular season, squad rotation becomes a priority for the Seattle Sounders. For the better part of two months, Seattle have lined up twice a week as the club competes in three competitions.

With another match scheduled for Wednesday night against Marathón of Honduras, the Sounders are trying to break up the workload for the squad as best they can.

After starting mostly reserves against Monterrey last week, there were 11 changes to the starting lineup for Seattle’s weekend match with the Chicago Fire – the MLS equivalent of a hockey line change.

The travel arrangements for Seattle’s recent four-match road trip have been fractured to cut down on travel time.

While the bulk of the team traveled Seattle-to-Mexico-to-Chicago, four regular players missed the Mexico leg and joined the team in Illinois for its last-gasp 1-0 victory over the Fire.

WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Another player, Nate Jaqua, was sent home before the Chicago leg to fly back to Seattle for an MRI and cortisone injection in his hip. (Not to worry, Sounders fans: Jaqua says the injury feels surprisingly good and is not a major concern.)

According to Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid, game-winner Blaise Nkufo took Monday off to spend the day with his family in Vancouver.

Through it all, Seattle have performed admirably in the congested second half of the season, posting a 7-1-3 record in the past 11 league matches.

The task of keeping players fit and relaying their ability to play to Schmid falls on the shoulders of David Tenney, Seattle’s fitness coach. His job of estimating players’ readiness is made easier through technology.

“The Omegawave program that we use, the exact stat it gives you is level of readiness, level of optimization,” Tenney said. “We do that two days after a game, typically. It gives us a sense of their readiness early in the week ... and how ‘deep’ their fatigue is.”

The system, which assesses a player’s physical condition through an amalgamation of measurements, obtains its information through sensors attached to a player’s body. The club owns two of the expensive pieces of equipment and uses them to help determine starting lineups.

According to Tenney, some players are more naturally resilient than others. James Riley and Sanna Nyassi are two of the fastest healers on the team. The team’s leading goal-scorer, Fredy Montero, is also able to handle the heavy workloads.

“People don’t see how physically and genetically gifted he is,” Tenney said of Montero, who has played in all 26 MLS games this season. “If you look at where he was at when he got here to where he is now, it’s a credit to him as an athlete.”

Tenney believes New York are the only other MLS team with access to an Omegawave.

Despite a few bruises (including a black eye for Patrick Ianni), the club seemed no worse for wear as it returned to training Monday morning. Speaking about the club’s recent stretch of four away games, Schmid was pleased with the team’s performance.

“At the end, when you draw a line under it all, I’m very pleased with our resiliency,” he said, “with our ability to stay focused throughout the whole trip, with our depth—a lot of different people played—with the heart of the team. I’m very happy with that.”