Even though the Seattle Sounders head into Wednesday’s match against the Houston Dynamo with a chance to clinch the playoffs, head coach Brian Schmetzer doesn’t care to look at it in any particular context other than it’s a match the Sounders are playing to win—just like any other. “Our main focus, when we came in, has been to win every game that we’re playing.”
He’ll have a pretty strong squad to choose from, with only Joevin Jones (international duty) and probably Alvaro Fernandez (hamstring injury) out of contention. Fernandez is a “game-time” decision according to Schmetzer; the player trained both days this week, but it seems unlikely that we’ll see him out there on Wednesday. Andreas Ivanschitz, who was a late scratch in Vancouver last week, is “100%” according to Schmetzer.
Schmetzer hasn’t said who will replace Jones at left-back on Wednesday, with Dylan Remick the only natural player at the position available, though rookie center back Tony Alfaro could also slot in. Schmetzer isn’t worried, though: “I’m very confident in every player on the team, so the player that steps on for Joevin, I have 100% confidence in.”
It’s unlikely that we’ll see a start from Nelson Valdez, but Schmetzer was very quick to praise and defend the Paraguayan forward from what he says is unfair criticism. “I can’t speak more highly of Nelson Valdez on many different levels. Anybody who has watched us play in the last 11 games has seen what an important player Nelson is to the group.” He said Valdez is just as important of a leader as Roman Torres, despite the latter getting the majority of attention due to his leading of post-match celebrations in recent weeks. “But Nelson leads the locker room in his way. He knows how to win. I lean on him heavily, not just on the field but off the field as well.”
Even though Houston is at the bottom of the standings, Schmetzer said the parity in MLS makes even the last-place teams dangerous on any given day. But he believes in his methods and his squad, saying that “we’ve prepared the team as best we could. It’s their job now to take the preparation and believe in what they’ve done over the week.”