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Large crowd bids farewell to Sounders at final local training session

The team entertained gathered fans at Starfire on Wednesday ahead of travelling to Toronto

MLS: Western Conference Championship-Seattle Sounders at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The fans were out in full force in Tukwila on Wednesday to send off the Seattle Sounders ahead of the team’s first-ever MLS Cup final. Head coach Brian Schmetzer nodded towards the fans gathered at the edge of the Starfire Sports pitch, saying that “It’s just another chapter in the book of maybe what the fans mean to the team. There are a lot of people out here and that’s great, and we appreciate it.”

The team is doing final home preparations for Saturday’s big match, but Schmetzer said that his team were enjoying themselves and itching to get to Toronto and onto the pitch at BMO Field. “They’re playing well, they had a good day today,” Schmetzer said, “they had some fun showing off in front of the fans.”

But Schmetzer admitted the players were sort of “on autopilot” this week in training, and that the two days of preparation in Toronto should help them work out the kinks before the match. Regardless, Schmetzer said “the team has been in a good run of form, so [our] coaching is just kind of reminders.”

As he reflects on the season and what it took for the team to get this far, Schmetzer is as humble as he always is, choosing to focus on his players rather than himself. “They find ways to win, they adapt, they’re resilient, they figure out ways how to win games.” But he’s not surprised by this; no, Brian Schmetzer has been around long enough to know this team and organization intimately. “They never surprise me. For the last eight years, we’ve been pretty resilient.”

Even though he’s hesitant to take credit for the Sounders’ successes this season, Schmetzer did say the experience of taking the team from the depths of the standings to the MLS Cup final is one he and his staff hope to learn from. “We talk about it all the time: Why did we struggle at the start? What happened? What did we learn from that? What did we do to get the team moving in the right direction?” Schmetzer stressed that he hopes to answer each of those questions, to make himself a better coach and to be better prepared for the future.

Not underdogs: Schmetzer argued that the matchup was pretty even. “It’s two good teams going after each other, they play a certain way, we play a certain way on the day.” Not that it will be easy—he pointed out the many daunting qualities of Sebastian Giovinco—but Schmetzer rejects the notion that the match will be one-sided. He sees the match playing out like any other high level soccer game: “who takes their chances, who can defend, what players put on big performances, that’ll dictate the storyline of the game.”

Even if the teams are pretty evenly matched, most chalk up Toronto’s home field advantage as being a difference-maker in the final. Schmetzer praised his team’s record and resiliency away from home (4-3-2 since he took over as head coach), he doesn’t put as much stock in location in a game as big as this one. “In a one-off championship series, usually the better team on the day wins. Whoever is playing the best soccer on that day wins, home or away.”

Nerves are natural: Stefan Frei said goalkeepers in particular are prone to having butterflies in their stomachs before matches, but Schmetzer insisted that all players should at least feel a little bit of similar nervousness before a big match. “Every player will have butterflies when the referee is about to blow the whistle. If they don’t, then they’re not human, they don’t feel things. We all feel a little butterflies right before the kickoff, but once the game is on, it’s on.”

The big speech: Schmetzer said he still has one little detail to work on—his inspirational pre-game speech. “It’s not ready yet, I’ll think about it on the plane to Toronto.”

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