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Sounders ready to return to action after a long break

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TUKWILA — Although early June is usually when the Seattle Sounders get an extended break from their MLS campaign, this year was especially welcome. After adding what equates to 25% more than one season and close to 20,000 air miles to their schedule through the Concacaf Champions League, the Sounders were rewarded with a 16-day break between games that included almost a full week off from team activities.

They now return to action on Tuesday against the Vancouver Whitecaps well-rested and mentally ready to tackle the final two-thirds of their MLS schedule.

“The mood is great, we’re excited to get back to games,” Sounders goalie Stefan Frei said. “In my professional career, I don’t think I’ve had a full week off. Mentally it was one that was well received and, at least on my part, well used.

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In the Whitecaps, the Sounders face a team that has put together a solid run after a slow start. The Whitecaps have gone 4-1-1 in their last six league games, including a win over Real Salt Lake during the international break. In four of those games, the Whitecaps scored a goal in the 90th minute or later that changed the score.

This is the second of five straight MLS home games. The Sounders are well aware that racking up points during this stretch will go a long way in determining what kind of seeding they get in the playoffs.

“We don’t need to get all the points, but we have to look like we deserve all the points,” Frei said of the home stay. “We need to show that we want to take every point and put ourselves in a position to do it.”

FIFA will announce on Thursday which cities will host the 2026 World Cup to be played in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Seattle is one of 16 US cities still in the running and is generally considered one of the favorites to be selected.

Frei expressed confidence in Seattle’s bid, in which the Sounders are heavily involved.

“We’ve shown that there is a rabid fan base for soccer,” he said when asked to make the case for Seattle. “We just had the opportunity to showcase what a high-profile match looks like at Lumen Field (when nearly 69,000 showed up for the CCL final). If they don’t understand what the opportunity is in this city, I think there are other things at stake. I think we’ve made our case and if we don’t, I’ll be very disappointed.”

Yeimar Gomez Andrade has been ruled out with a hamstring strain, while Stefan Cleveland is listed as questionable with a “facial laceration,” and neither is expected to play against the Whitecaps. Both players suffered their injuries during training last week.

Yeimar returned from his week off with “a little bit of tension,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer explained. “We didn’t think much of it, we had an MRI and it was nothing dramatic.” Yeimar returned to training the next day only because the discomfort persisted. At the time, Schmetzer said the Sounders decided to close Yeimar as a precaution.

“We have a lot of games to come and I don’t want to take a chance,” Schmetzer said. Yeimar is likely to miss at least the next two games.

Cleveland’s injury occurred when he came down to make a save and an attacking player collided with him. Cleveland returned to practice Monday sporting a fairly significant black eye and 14 stitches along the eye socket and cheek.

Also coaching alongside Josh Atencio, who hasn’t played since May 22 after suffering an adductor strain. Schmetzer described Atencio as “an exit” from the comeback.

Xavier Arreaga returned to training on Monday and will likely start against the Whitecaps. However, of the starters who were on international duty, Nouhou is the only other who could return in time to play and would only be available off the bench. Albert Rusnák, who started and provided an assist in Slovakia’s 2-1 loss to Kazakhstan on Monday, will not be available and neither will Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan, who traveled with the United States for Tuesday’s game against El Salvador.

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