The Seattle Sounders were already expecting to be without Jordan Morris for potentially half the season while he was on loan with English League Championship side Swansea City, but the torn ACL Morris suffered with Swansea has now left the Sounders facing the reality that they will be without their star winger all season.
How will the Sounders replace Morris, who is expected to be out for 10-12 months? Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer admitted that there have been some discussions, with funds possibly being available earlier than expected because of the nature of the injury.
“I think all along whether Jordan got injured or not was to go through the first part of the year and find out what happened with Jordan’s loan and go from there,” Schmetzer said. “In that sense, the plan really hasn’t changed, it just takes on a little more long-term significance because of the nature of Jordan’s injury. ”
To compensate for the lack of winger depth, Schmetzer talked up the idea of playing a two-striker formation with Will Bruin named as an option for the second forward role.
“It’s a strong possibility we put some work into a second formation just to see what that looks like.”
Morris was also spotted at Sounders training Monday visiting with his teammates as he continues his rehab state-side. Schmetzer was in a cheerful mood when talking about Morris visiting the team, despite acknowledging the injury to one of their star players as “a massive loss for the club”.
“Having Jordan come out to see the guys was really inspirational,” Schmetzer said. “Maybe more so even for Jordan just to be as around his old teammates. Everybody was really happy to see him.”
There was also talk about young players stepping up to fill the void, with two open positions on the wings depending on the formation. Whether a two-striker formation, or playing with two wingers and a forward up top, the clear theme from Schmetzer was that the Sounders will be playing towards their strengths in the midfield.
“The team has always had a down the middle, experienced players, and sometimes you can get away with bringing younger guys in. You pair them up with a senior player, you put them out wide where there’s a little risk there.”
With a veteran laden squad coming off of a successful postseason run, it has been a quiet offseason from an acquisition standpoint.
Midfielder João Paulo was re-signed to Designated Player spot after being loaned in last year from Brazilian club Botafogo. MLS veteran and Seattle-native Kelyn Rowe was also signed as a free agent.
The club also re-signed utility man Jimmy Medranda and backup goalie Stefan Cleveland.
On the defensive front, Schmetzer expressed confidence in his left back position despite the departure of Joevin Jones. Both Nohou Tolo and Brad Smith, who were with the Sounders last season are expected to split time at the position.
On the right side, Alex Roldan is the early favorite to start at right back, but Schmetzer also mentioned Kelyn Rowe and academy product Cody Baker as internal options at the position.
“Alex played the last games of the year, we might put Kelyn Rowe back there and see what he looks like back there. That is certainly another open spot and if things don’t go well that’s a possible upgrade.”
Rowe, 29, has spent a majority of his career in the midfield, but his profile as a wing-back was mentioned something the training staff may look more into.
As for bringing new players, Schmetzer mentioned their being room for, “another experienced MLS guy” and opportunities for youth for youth players to step up and earn a spot.
Danny Leyva, who dealt with nagging injuries last season, was a young-player singled out as a player that Schmetzer sees a lot of potential in.
After dealing with broken-foot and a quad injury last year, Leyva could have an extended chance to impress in the preseason.
“We’ll bring him[Leyva] along and preseason and see how he does and, you know, try him out and some preseason games, see how he fits, see where he fits. And then the rest is up to him.”