TUKWILA — Although early June is often when the Seattle Sounders get an extended break from their MLS campaign, this year’s was particularly welcome. After adding what amounts to about 25% more of a season and close to 20,000 air miles to their schedule through Concacaf Champions League play, the Sounders were rewarded with a 16-day break between matches that included nearly a full week off from team activities.
They now return to action on Tuesday against the Vancouver Whitecaps well-rested and mentally ready to tackle the final two-thirds of their MLS schedule.
“The mood is great, we’re excited to get back to games,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “In my professional career, I don’t think I’ve had a full week off. Mentally that was one that was well received and, at least on my part, well-taken advantage of.”
In the Whitecaps, the Sounders are facing a team that has hit a solid run of form after a slow start. The Whitecaps have gone 4-1-1 in their last six league games, including a win over Real Salt Lake during the international break. In four of those games, the Whitecaps scored a goal in the 90th minute or later which changed the result.
This is the second of five straight MLS home games. The Sounders are keenly aware that piling up points during this stretch will go a long way to determining what kind of seeding they get in the playoffs.
“We don’t need to get every point but we need to look like we deserve every point,” Frei said about the homestand. “We need to show that we want to take every point and put ourselves in a position to do that.”
FIFA will announce on Thursday which cities will host the 2026 World Cup that will be played in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Seattle is one of 16 US cities still in the running and is generally considered a favorite to be selected.
Frei expressed confidence in Seattle’s bid, in which the Sounders are heavily involved.
“We’ve proven there’s a rabid fanbase for soccer,” he said when asked to state Seattle’s case. “We’ve just had a chance to exhibit what high-profile match looks like at Lumen Field (when nearly 69,000 showed up for the CCL final). If they don’t get what the opportunity is in this city, I think there are other things at play. I think we’ve made our case and if we don’t get it, I’ll be sorely disappointed.”
Yeimar Gomez Andrade has been ruled out with a hamstring strain while Stefan Cleveland is listed as questionable with a “facial laceration,” and neither are expected to play against the Whitecaps. Both players suffered their injuries during training last week.
Yeimar returned from his week off with “a little tightness,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer explained. “We didn’t think much of it, had an MRI and it didn’t come back with anything dramatic.” Yeimar returned to training the next day only for the discomfort to persist. At that point, Schmetzer said the Sounders decided to shut down Yeimar as a precaution.
“We have a pile of games coming up and I don’t want to take the risk,” Schmetzer said. Yeimar is likely to miss at least the next two games.
Cleveland’s injury happened when he went down to make a save and an attacking player collided with him. Cleveland was back at training on Monday sporting a pretty significant black eye and 14 stitches along his eye socket and cheek.
Also training on the side was Josh Atencio, who hasn’t played since May 22 after suffering an adductor strain. Schmetzer described Atencio as “a ways out” from returning.
Xavier Arreaga was back at training on Monday and will likely start against the Whitecaps. Of the starters who were on international duty, though, Nouhou is the only other one who might get back in time to play and he’d only be available off the bench. Albert Rusnák, who started and had an assist in Slovakia’s 2-1 loss to Kazakhstan on Monday, won’t be available and neither will Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan, who traveled with the United States for Tuesday’s match against El Salvador.