TUKWILA, Wash.—When the Seattle Sounders take on the Houston Dynamo in Wednesday's home matchup at CenturyLink Field (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), they’ll have a chance to clinch a berth in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs – with two vital attackers at their disposal.
Midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (Uruguay) and rookie forward Jordan Morris (USA) each made early returns from national team duty, rejoining the club for Seattle’s Monday practice at Starfire Soccer Complex, which means the Sounders should expect to have the services of both their top playmaker and leading goal-scorer just in time for Wednesday’s match.
Lodeiro was initially considered unlikely to be back in time, but was afforded an early return trip after picking up a yellow card during Uruguay’s 3-0 victory over Venezuela on Thursday, leaving him with a suspension for card accumulation.
“I was [happy to have Lodeiro back],” said Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer. “We’re just hoping [the yellow cards are not] a continued trend and he behaves himself moving forward. It was unexpected, but it’s a good thing for us.”
Lodeiro also recently served a suspension for card accumulation in MLS play that kept him out of Seattle’s recent 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps and has been booked five times in his first 10 games overall.
But Schmetzer says he expects that number to “drop quickly” as the 27-year-old continues to acclimate to the league and how the games are officiated.
“I think he just has to get used to the referees, the league, the way it works and everything else because some of those yellows weren’t for bad tackles,” Schmetzer said. “Once he figures out the league, he’s a smart kid. He’ll figure it out.”
With Lodeiro and Morris back in the fold, Wednesday’s match presents the Sounders with an opportunity to complete what has been a remarkable late-season surge back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
A victory over Houston would officially clinch a playoff spot for Seattle, a prospect that once seemed increasingly daunting following a 6-12-2 start to the season.
Morris noted the shift in atmosphere he’s seen during his team’s recent run of form. The Sounders are 7-1-3 since July 31, a torrid stretch that has even resulted in a new tradition of post-victory dance routines in the locker room, spearheaded by center back Roman Torres. The rookie has often played a reluctant role in the dancing, but is willing to continue the role if it means the Sounders are winning.
“I wish I didn’t have to dance, but it’s just a lighter atmosphere,” Morris said. “When you’re winning games and things are going your way, it’s just more fun to be in the locker room. It was tough at the beginning of the year. Results weren’t going our way and when that happens, everything is a little bit drearier.
“It’s been a turnaround, completely, and it’s a lot of fun right now.”