After missing the team’s last match due to what the club described as a “health-related issue,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid returned to team training Thursday. Despite his return, Schmid says he won’t make the trip to San Jose to face the Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium at 7:30 p.m. PT Saturday.
An hour before kickoff against Toronto Saturday, the club released a statement saying that Schmid would not be on the sidelines for the match. At practice Thursday, Schmid provided little more in the way of information.
“Saturday early morning I had a health issue that required me to go to the hospital and they kept me in the hospital until Tuesday,” said Schmid. “The details of it are for me and my family, but I’ve gotten the OK to go from here.”
In his stead, assistant coach Brian Schmetzer will manage the Sounders on the road. Schmetzer was at the helm for Seattle’s 2-1 win against Toronto while Schmid was hospitalized.
“I’m very confident with Brian and the rest of the coaching staff, it’s just much harder to watch the game on TV,” Schmid said, smiling.
Schmid went on to clarify that although he was medically cleared to fly, he was staying behind at the behest of his doctors, who wanted him to remain in the area for at least a week.
The Sounders, meanwhile, head to Avaya Stadium for the first time since its opening to face a San Jose team that has had their number all season. Seattle has dropped both home fixtures to the Quakes, and Saturday has major implications for the postseason.
Seattle (13-13-2) is fourth in the Western Conference with 41 points in 28 games played. The Sounders are trailed by Sporting KC (11-7-8) and Portland (11-9-8), also with 41 points, in fifth and sixth, respectively. San Jose (11-11-5) sits below the red line with 38 points from 27 matches.
Both Seattle and San Jose benefit from Portland and SKC’s 0-0 draw Wednesday, but three points one way or the other may wind up making a world of difference in a conference where 10 points separate the top seven teams.
“We’re both fighting for our playoff lives at this point,” said captain Brad Evans Thursday. “It’s going to be a difficult task, but one that we’re up for.”
Seattle will be without Osvaldo Alonso, who is serving a one-game suspension for accumulated yellows after he was booked for simulation against Toronto, but Andreas Ivanschitz appears to be recovered from a quad injury that delayed his debut since he was signed Aug. 4.
Evans said that Ivanschitz would be an important addition to the midfield if Saturday’s match proves his first in Rave Green.
“Andreas is a guy who can pick out passes on the field that not a lot of guys see,” said Evans. “He puts himself in good positions to make a play and he’s comfortable playing inside and outside.”
Also unclear is how much Clint Dempsey, who left practice early Tuesday in what was described as a precaution by Schmetzer, will contribute. Dempsey was released from making a midweek trip east for the USMNT’s 4-1 loss in a friendly to Brazil, for reasons that U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann described as health related.
The message from Evans was clear: Whoever plays Saturday needs to be in top form.
“The guys that step in will do an admirable job, and they’ll be up for the challenge,” said Evans. “At this point it’s all about pushing each other. So when guys are healthy, even if you’re performing well, you might find yourself on the bench.”