Preview: Sounders look to turn around woeful June against Vancouver

Sounders preview
PHOTO: Handwalla Bwana is photographed during the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. He has the opportunity to shine in Will Bruin's place on Saturday against Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Mike Fiechtner/Seattle Sounders.

Preview (June 27, 2019) — The month of June has not been kind to the Seattle Sounders FC. The team desperately needed the Gold Cup break, as June compiled two MLS losses and one U.S. Open Cup loss.

At home on Saturday, the Sounders are looking to turn around a woeful month of June. The Sounders will be missing plenty of their key pieces. Nicolás Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz are currently competing in the Copa America. Meanwhile, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and Roman Torres are competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Jordy Delem was also in Gold Cup competition with Martinique, but has returned back to Seattle.

“We started very bad, we lost 4-0,” Delem said. “I think we have to get experiences from that. I think we did well against Mexico, too. There was a couple mistakes on some goals. It was a great performance from me, for the team. We have to look back and get the experience for the next one.”

However, Delem has quickly re-shifted his focus back to the Sounders.

“You have to refocus quick,” Delem said. “I have a job to do. There’s no way I can think about the national team. It’s done.”

The Sounders get Delem back at a good time, as they will face the Vancouver Whitecaps at home Saturday. Currently, the Sounders sit in third place in the MLS Western Conference with 26 points. However, the Whitecaps are down in 10th place, with 19 points.

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
2019 MLS Regular Season
CenturyLink Field
June 29, 2019 — 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET

Stream: ESPN+

What to Watch For

Time for Handwalla Bwana to shine

One of the most unfortunate injuries happened to Will Bruin. The veteran striker tore his ACL, the club announced on June 20. Bruin scored two goals in nine matches this year for the Sounders. He’s also been earning minutes with the Tacoma Defiance, to help him prepare for logging MLS minutes.

“He does have an ACL tear of his right knee, that’s the official diagnosis,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Surgery will come after they let the swelling go down and he will have surgery in early July. He is effectively done for some time. We’ll forge on, we have got to keep going. We will miss him, but this group, this franchise, this team has overcome serious injuries before and we will have to do it again.”

With Ruidíaz gone on international duty, the stage was set for Bruin. Now, that stage and spotlight is heading over to Handwalla Bwana.

The 22-year-old Kenyan has also appeared in nine matches this season, scoring one goal. Bwana is a young striker that is fast on the ball. In recent matches, he’s been paired up in the midfield/attack with Harry Shipp, Víctor Rodríguez and Bruin.

However, with the injury to Bruin, Bwana can move from the left midfield to the top of Schmetzer’s usual 4-2-3-1 formation. Lookout for him against Vancouver’s stout defense.

The Injury Report

Seattle Sounders FC

Aside from Bruin’s injury and the international appearances, there’s been another shakeup on defense. Kim Kee-hee has been battling discomfort in his knee for a few weeks, but practiced for the first time in weeks to prepare for Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Kim could take his starting spot right back. He’s listed as questionable, but Garth Lagerwey sounds confident he’ll be ready to take the pitch. Newly acquired centerback Xavier Arreaga is likely out with a personal excuse, which would put Kim with Jonathan Campbell.

Plus, if Kim returns to the pitch, he’ll reunite with Hwang In-beom, his Korean teammate who features for Vancouver. Kim notably saved what could have been a game-winning goal when Vancouver and Seattle met up in March.

Vancouver Whitecaps

Vancouver has a bit of a longer list.

Defender Jasser Khmiri is out with a left knee injury, while forward Joaquín Ardáiz is also out with a left hamstring strain. Midfielder David Norman Jr. had right foot surgery back in early April and was ruled out for three to four months.

Backup goalkeeper Thomas Hasal is out with a left shoulder sprain.

Last Meeting: March 30, 2019

As mentioned, Kim Kee-hee came up big against Vancouver in March. The match featured a scoreless draw and a bit of history. When Kim and Hwang In-beom took the pitch at the same time, they became the first Korean internationals to face off in MLS action.

Prediction: Seattle 1, Vancouver 1

This is a close call. The defense is still a little all over the place for Seattle. Kim has barely gotten any minutes with Jonathan Campbell. Plus, there’s still the language barrier that Kim got down with Chad Marshall so well. Now, his other teammates will have to learn how Kim communicates.

Vancouver still has a lot of their roster intact. A few players are gone on international duty, which makes them stronger in numbers than Seattle.

PHOTO: Handwalla Bwana is photographed during the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. He has the opportunity to shine in Will Bruin’s place on Saturday against Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Mike Fiechtner/Seattle Sounders.

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