Clint Dempsey sat out the Sounders’ final local training Friday with a groin issue. Coach Sigi Schmid said the club was just being cautious, but he didn’t give odds beyond 50-50 for the club’s Saturday night match at Colorado. Forward Nelson Valdez also was limited Friday, and also sounds questionable.
Meanwhile other challenges await including a Rapids team off to a surprisingly fast start, and the usual elevation issues at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in the Denver suburb of Commerce City: 5,164 feet above sea level.
The Sounders flew out after Friday training in keeping with coach Sigi Schmid’s philosophy that the best way to deal with elevation is to get in and get out of it as quickly as possible. Yes, bodies can acclimatize – but that’s more of a long-term deal: the host Rapids may be used to it, but there’s really no way for the visiting Sounders to adapt by the 6 p.m. Saturday start.
Schmid also seems to believe there is psychological aspect to playing in elevation, so he didn’t spend much time on the topic this week. But a couple of his players offered some interesting thoughts.
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This is from Herculez Gomez, who spent part of his MLS career in Colorado and in some even high elevations in Mexico: "It’s definitely an advantage (for the home team). I don’t think I started respecting it enough until I went to Mexico and I heard other teams talking about the advantages that the locals clubs had and Mexico City had. … Altitude’s tough to get acclimated -- the way your lungs feel, the way the body reacts to the exertion, the way the ball moves, the flight – everything. It’s almost impossible to get acclimated unless you’re there three weeks to a month. A disadvantage for sure, and they’ve done a good job of using it as a home-field advantage. But it’s not excuse. It’s still 11v11, and we’re not going to use that as any type of excuse."
And this from veteran captain Brad Evans: "You tend to feel it in warm ups a little bit, then you catch your wind at the start of the game, at the start of the second half you get a bit winded and then you finish out the game pretty strong."