With a full two weeks between the Sounders’ last match against FC Dallas and the first leg of the conference semifinals, the players and staff were able to take the weekend off to get refreshed (and healed up, in some cases). Some players are still on international duty, but they should be returning over the next couple days. Head coach Brian Schmetzer said that his players were “a little rusty” on the training pitch, but mentally “ready to get back at it.”
Midfielder Cristian Roldan seemed content with the weekend break, using it to rest and get fully healed up from the various bruises and minor issues he’d accumulated. “We were able to get our legs back under us. Relax for a bit, play some video games,” he joked. “Older guys probably took care of their kids, which kind of sucks for them.”
As far as the injured trio of Jordan Morris, Andreas Ivanschitz, and Flaco Fernandez, all three are still considered day-to-day by the team. As for Morris and Flaco, Schmetzer said “every day, baby steps. Hopefully those baby steps translate into playing.” Ivanschitz is in full training now after impressing before the weekend break. Schmetzer said that the club is doing “everything humanly possible” to get all three players ready as soon as possible.
Looking ahead to the conference finals, Schmetzer expressed sympathy for Colorado goalkeeper Tim Howard, who is set to be sidelined with a long-term injury suffered on USA international duty. “It’s too bad, Timmy’s a fantastic player. It’s bad for the US team and it’s bad for Colorado.” He chose not to dwell on that fact, because it’s out of everyone’s control. Schmetzer noted that his team has also had to deal with the loss of Clint Dempsey, and they’ve adapted just fine. “I look at it pretty even-keeled though, because we lost our best player.”
Because Howard is a goalkeeper, Schmetzer said that he doesn’t expect the Rapids to change their strategy just for that. He pointed out Kevin Doyle and Shkëlzen Gashi as a bit underrated, because the focus tends to be on Colorado’s defensive qualities. “Colorado has gained some deserved notoriety, as far as being the best defensive team in our league this year. But you can’t overlook that they also have the guy that actually scored the goal of the year.”
A key quality of the Sounders strategy since Schmetzer took over is that they don’t tend to bunker down, even when it would have been reasonable to do so. But sticking to his guns has worked out so far for Schmetzer, and he has the example of FC Dallas in the first leg of the conference semifinals to show what happens when you drastically change your strategy in the playoffs. He’s adamant that his team will take the same approach to both legs against Colorado. “We understand that it’s 180 minutes, so we will come out and press and attack at home, and we will press and attack away.”