Over the first few years of Sigi Schmid’s reign as Seattle Sounders coach, the team was dominant on the road. It was one of the rare MLS teams that played a similar style away from home as it did in their local confines. And they won quite a bit of those matches. But things changed in Sigi’s last few years. A more conservative tactic took over, one that mirrored his system in two-leg playoff series.
Brian Schmetzer went old school, Sounders style, in his approach to road games. The team plays with possession, intent and fury. Entering away matches the approach is not one of safety and hope for a low scoring draw. Instead they are aggressive and risky in their desire to take three points rather than keep just one. It’s working.
If you count just "post-Lodeiro/Schmetzer era," Sounders are the best Away team in MLS by points, 2nd best by points per game and 2nd best by goal differential. Schmetzer brought them from 4th worst to 7th overall and near-best since he's been in charge. With the regular season winding down, there is a chance that Seattle finishes in the top 20% in MLS away from home for the sixth time in eight years.
The resurgence of Jingle Bells, the traditional away victory song, is precisely because Schmetzer is embracing what made Seattle Sounders soccer exciting from its MLS launch to kick off of 2015.
From 2009 to 2015, in only 1 year were they in the bottom 50% of MLS for away results (‘13). Twice they were 1st (‘14 & ‘11, the two best Sounders seasons); twice they were 3rd (‘09 & ‘10), and another they were 5th (‘12). In both 2015 and 2013, they were 10th overall.
It is quite likely that the Sounders will play a road match in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Their performance in the past month plus should indicate a chance at victory. Singing Jingle Bells in the cold of November someplace like Kansas City, or Salt Lake, or Portland, or Colorado (warm like LA could work too) will be a huge step towards the elusive goal.