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Sports >  Seattle Sounders

Sounders expect to be at full strength entering MLS playoffs, while LAFC will be without key players

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 20, 2020

Seattle Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz (9) celebrates with midfielder Gustav Svensson after Ruidiaz scored a goal against the LA Galaxy during the second half of a Nov. 4 MLS match in Carson, Calif.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz (9) celebrates with midfielder Gustav Svensson after Ruidiaz scored a goal against the LA Galaxy during the second half of a Nov. 4 MLS match in Carson, Calif. (Associated Press)
By Jayda Evans Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The Sounders expect to have their full roster available for selection to open their Major League Soccer playoff run.

Seattle, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, hosts seventh-seeded Los Angeles FC on Tuesday at CenturyLink Field.

Rave Green defenders Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) and Gustav Svensson (Sweden) completed international duty Tuesday, with Arreaga scoring his first international goal during the stint. Both are in the process of taking a charter flight to return to Seattle. If able, they will not have to quarantine for nine days in order to rejoin the club amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The league has approved players returning from international duty will be immediately available for the postseason if they fly via chartered flights. The reasoning is players, who are tested frequently for COVID-19, are in controlled environments with their MLS club and national teams, so any contraction of the virus must stem from the commercial flights used to travel between both.

Medical task forces for MLS and the Players Association have worked together to determine players’ safety as the number of positive cases continues to rise across the globe.

Meanwhile, LAFC will be without three key players due to positive COVID-19 tests while with their respective national teams. Diego Rossi, MLS’s Golden Boot winner with 14 goals, tested positive this week while with his Uruguay national team. LAFC left back Diego Palacios and midfielder Jose Cifuentes are also out after positive tests while with Ecuador for World Cup qualifiers.

While Arreaga played and trained alongside Palacios and Cifuentes, Arreaga had multiple negative test results this week, according to Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey.

“We have to be very careful that Xavi isn’t going to turn a positive down the road because of the incubation period of the virus,” Lagerwey said of CDC literature that estimates time from exposure to development of symptoms at two to 14 days.

“We are not going to compromise the safety of the rest of the team to get them back,” Lagerwey said. “Xavi, as an example, had a flight (Wednesday) and he didn’t get on it because it was not deemed to be the right health and safety approach by the joint committee. It’s ongoing and we’ll see how it comes out.”

Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz (Peru) also completed play with his national team this week but because he already contracted the virus in October, he is categorized as a “recovered person” and cleared to play without quarantining.

Ruidiaz and Svensson are the most likely to return this week.

ESPN reported Thursday morning that should a team have a COVID-19 outbreak during the postseason, effort will be made to have the match rescheduled. But if unable, the team with the outbreak will be forced to forfeit and the opponent will advance. And “if both teams are dealing with an outbreak, the team with the higher points per game average during the regular season would be the one to advance,” according to ESPN.

The league has a slim playoff window. MLS Cup is scheduled for Dec. 12.

Contract updates

Lagerwey and Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer exchanged contract renewal proposals this week. Lagerwey said the recent communication is part of ongoing negotiations in hopes to have Schmetzer return in 2021.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll get to a good resolution,” Lagerwey said Wednesday. Schmetzer’s current deal expires at the end of the season. “I don’t want to speak for Brian and his perceptions of that, but certainly we want him back.”

Lagerwey confirmed Sounders assistant Gonzalo Pineda has received multiple inquiries about possible head coaching positions the past year. Pineda is reportedly a finalist for the D.C. United vacancy.

“He’s done a really good job for us,” Lagerwey said of Pineda, who also played for the Sounders, helping the club win the 2014 MLS Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup. “He’s got a great resume and there are lots of reasons other teams would want to hire him. We see that as a fundamentally good thing. We would be bummed to lose Gonzalo, but we think he’s a really good coach with a really bright future.”

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