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Sports >  Seattle Sounders

Sounders notebook: Nico Lodeiro expected to return this week, keeper Stefan Cleveland re-signs

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 20, 2022

Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro, left, and Columbus’ Saad Abdul-Salaam chase the ball during an Aug. 21 match.  (Associated Press)
Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro, left, and Columbus’ Saad Abdul-Salaam chase the ball during an Aug. 21 match. (Associated Press)
By Jayda Evans Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Nico Lodeiro is expected to report to training camp this week, according to Seattle Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer.

Lodeiro was in his native Uruguay and needed to pass health and safety protocols before joining the Sounders. The team is scheduled to move training to Tucson, Arizona, beginning Monday through Feb. 1, but the midfielder will first travel to Seattle.

“He’s coming back. He’s coming back here to Seattle,” Schmetzer said after training at Lumen Field on Wednesday.

The Sounders are eager to have their own medical team evaluate Lodeiro’s health. He underwent two right knee arthroscopy surgeries last season, limiting the midfielder to nine games, four of which he started. The 2020 Best XI player totaled one assist in his sporadic 459 MLS minutes.

Lodeiro entered the Sounders’ playoff match against Real Salt Lake in the 104th minute of an eventual goal-less draw. The Sounders lost 6-5 on penalty kicks, Lodeiro making his attempt.

The Sounders are also without midfielder Cristian Roldan (U.S.), forward Jordan Morris (U.S.) and defenders Yeimar Gomez Andrade (Colombia) and Nouhou (Cameroon) due to international duty. But the arrival of a healthy Lodeiro will help in anchoring the team as it prepares to open the season with a CONCACAF Champions League matchup against F.C. Motagua on Feb. 17 in Honduras and Feb. 24 at Lumen Field.

Lodeiro, 32, was unable to play in the Sounders’ Champions League appearance against Honduran side C.D. Olimpia due to a hamstring injury. Seattle lost the two-legged series.

Cleveland officially signed

The Sounders formally announced keeper Stefan Cleveland signed a two-year deal with a team option for 2024. He joined the Rave Green in 2019 and had a breakout season in goal last year, receiving minutes due to veteran Stefan Frei’s sprained knee injury developing blood clots.

Cleveland, a 2017 second-round draft pick, was solid in his 15 MLS starts. He conceded 15 goals, had three clean sheets and totaled 29 saves. The Ohio native also helped the Sounders dismantle Liga MX side Tigres UANL 3-0 in their Leagues Cup opener.

“We were prepared to lose him,” Schmetzer said of Cleveland, an unrestricted free agent some thought could be lured by more money and guaranteed minutes elsewhere. “Now, I’m happy that he’s back.”

Cleveland, 27, said the training sessions with Tom Dutra, the Sounders director of goalkeeping, Frei and Andrew Thomas, who suffered a back injury last season, was a primary reason for re-signing with the Sounders.

“I’ve been in situations whether it’s growing up or wherever I’ve been, I’ve had goalkeeper coaches that I didn’t connect with the way Tommy does maybe due to varying styles,” Cleveland said. “Tommy, Stef and Andrew, we all are very technically oriented and paying attention to the details. That’s a big thing for me.”

Cleveland also noted Dutra’s reputation in either further developing or honing past keepers such as hall of famer Kasey Keller and Minnesota United FC’s Tyler Miller, who was in goal for Los Angeles FC’s 2019 historic Supporters’ Shield win.

“That is very important,” Cleveland said. “I don’t know if I’ll be here the rest of my career. But I know that while I’m here with Tommy, I’m going to continue to improve and he’s going to continue to push me. Whether I’m on the bench, whether I’m playing or whatever it is, the four or five (practices) a week, I’m going to be getting better. At my age and my career, that’s where I need to be.”

More call-ups

Sounders midfielder Alex Roldan was called up Wednesday by El Salvador to participate in a training camp in Indianapolis. Roldan received his citizenship last year through his mother’s heritage and rose to captain “La Selecta” for World Cup qualifying matches.

El Salvador plays the U.S. men’s national team on Thursday in Ohio for a World Cup qualifying match. CONCACAF teams play three games each during the January window, meaning Roldan likely won’t report to the Sounders until mid-February.

A similar timeframe could follow for the Sounders’ other internationals. Schmetzer expects the team to receive word on those slated arrivals soon.

Paperwork needed

The Sounders are without Brazilian midfielder Joao Paulo due to his need to obtain a green card. The 2021 Best XI star was a mainstay in setting tempo last season alongside players such as Cristian Roldan and Josh Atencio. Schmetzer will also use new designated player signee Albert Rusnak in the midfield this season.

The Sounders are also awaiting the status of defender Xavier Arreaga. The Ecuadorian reportedly signed a contract through 2024 and was called up by his national team on Wednesday.

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