TUKWILA, Wash. – Not enough is said about Nicolas Lodeiro.
The Uruguayan center midfielder has been on a tear in MLS play for the Sounders since being snubbed for his country’s World Cup roster last summer. Last year, he recorded a single-season club-record 16 assists. This year, Lodeiro is second in the league in assists at eight and has been a mainstay in Seattle’s starting lineup.
Lodeiro will miss his first MLS start since October when the Sounders (7-2-5) face FC Dallas (5-6-3) in Frisco, Texas. The team captain is serving a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation – shown his fifth yellow in a loss at Kansas City on Sunday.
An exasperated, “life happens,” is all Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer could manage when initially talking about Lodeiro’s absence.
“You can’t replace everything that Nico brings, but we can replace it in a different fashion,” Schmetzer said when the team returned to training this week. “So, whoever we use in that No. 10 position, will do the best job they can. It will be a different look for the team.”
One positive is the return of left winger Victor Rodriguez (hamstring) and defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson (hamstring). They participated in full training this week and are available for selection along with Joevin Jones. The versatile Jones helped the Sounders win their 2016 MLS Cup and is back after a two-year stint playing in Germany.
Rodriguez could be shifted over to Lodeiro’s spot. Schmetzer praised his ability to play in pockets. Another option is midfielder Cristian Roldan, who’s physical like Lodeiro and is a goal-scoring threat.
In addition to figuring out play without Lodeiro, the Sounders spent the week breaking down their defensive missteps that led to a 3-2 loss to Sporting KC. Kansas City forward Johnny Russell scored a hat trick, his second in two MLS seasons.
Dallas is on a six-game winless streak. In its last outing against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Dallas was down two goals at halftime before scoring in the 85h minute of the eventual 2-1 loss.
“The goals that we took from Johnny Russell, I think we could’ve done better individually,” Schmetzer said. “We discussed all of that stuff on film. We’re going to be facing another guy, (Michael) Barrios, who’s an extremely dangerous attacking player. That’s where flexibility (in formations without Lodeiro) comes in. … It’s the nice thing about having guys with different skill sets.”
That flexibility is great, but it’s no match for having Lodeiro. His vision and accuracy have earned him another look as part of Uruguay’s national team roster for the Copa America, which begins June 14.
Lodeiro is one of 12 players the Sounders are anticipating missing for at least two games in June due to international call-ups for various competitions and friendlies. The list includes left back Brad Smith, whose play with the Sounders earned him a slot on his Australian national team’s roster for a friendly against South Korea on June 7.
“It makes things a little more difficult with Nico being out,” Roldan said. “Going into Dallas, who has struggled a little bit, they’re an eager team that wants to get a good result. … Nico does so much for the team, it’s going to be hard to replace, but hopefully we’ll have another guy who can do the job just fine.”