The Seattle Sounders are currently heading into a bye weekend, not coincidentally at the same time the rest of the world goes on an international break. Former head coach Sigi Schmid said at the beginning of the season that the Sounders (unlike some clubs, apparently) almost always request bye weekends that coincide with international breaks. It’s probably for the best, as a handful of the best players are either currently with their national teams or, in the case of Clint Dempsey, undergoing medical evaluation.
But head coach Brian Schmetzer said that it’s hard for the team to have to wait to get back onto the pitch after such a disheartening loss to Portland on Sunday. “They’re competitive guys, they’d play Wednesday if they could, just to get it out of their system, get the bad taste out of their system.”
That same loss broke the Sounders’ five-match unbeaten streak since Schmetzer took over last month, and finding the rhythm of that streak after the bye week will be key. The team that’s still in Seattle will be working hard, and the staff is already preparing to adjust for form, fitness, and their next opponents—the San Jose Earthquakes.
“The rhythm is the key. The group is determined, so I’m not concerned about the effort, but certainly if Clint’s not available, then how do we fine-tune that group that we had, in finding some rhythm to our game and finding some positive attacking play,” Schmetzer said.
After watching film with his coaching staff and later with the players available, Schmetzer identified what went well and went didn’t go so well in the 4-2 loss in Portland. He admits that the first goal was regrettable, but with a well-worked corner kick routine, “You gotta give the other team credit, but our positioning in the near post space needed to be a little bit better.”
As for the second and third goals by Portland, Schmetzer attributed them to “not good enough team defense.” Despite having praised his team in previous weeks for their excellent team defense, Schmetzer said there were simply “too many errors on those two plays.”
Especially after going down 3-0, Schmetzer said that the Sounders simply weren’t able to match the aggressiveness of Portland’s attack. “It took us 45 minutes to figure out the speed of the game.” None of that figured into the fourth goal, though, which Schmetzer called “a gut punch” because it was foolish to give away the foul, and conceding on a second set piece was unacceptable.
Like any good coach, though, Schmetzer also made sure to note the positives from his team’s performance—mostly confined to the second half of the match, for obvious reasons. Echoing what Brad Evans mentioned after the match, Schmetzer said that Osvaldo Alonso and other veteran players motivated their teammates, saying “let’s try and score four.” He attributed the first goal to his team coming out on the front foot after the break and taking it to the home side.
But the second goal, Schmetzer said, was the kind of “well-constructed” goal he wants his team to be scoring regularly and working on in training. “The goal that Jordy scored was good, a good little sequence. Ivanschitz kind of goes through the lines, creates that opening for Nico, Nico has all the time in the world to pick Jordy out.”
As for the substitutions that he made at halftime against the Timbers, Schmetzer said that the removal of Tyrone Mears for Roman Torres was because the former had already played two full matches at right-back that week, and that moving Brad Evans, who had played center-back in those matches, could get a less-fatigued player in the position. “The physical demands of the way I’d like to play are much more as a right-back, so I felt like Evans might have more gas in the tank, so that was the cause for that shift.”
Schmetzer said that he was impressed with Torres, but that he wasn’t going to jump the gun by saying that the player would definitely be starting against San Jose. Because Panama has two World Cup Qualifiers this week, and Torres could potentially play both, the Sounders staff won’t make any decisions until after Panama’s second match.
“I think Panama only needs to win one, so if they win the first one and Roman doesn’t play [in the second], then that’s a bit better for us.” Schmetzer said that there are a lot of “scenarios that I can’t control” like that, and that while he hopes all the players come back fit and ready to go, lots of things could happen to change that.
When Torres does eventually cement his way back into the side, Schmetzer said that he’ll talk to Evans about what his role will be, but that that hasn’t happened yet because it doesn’t need to. He said that the captain could play either right-back or midfield, but the staff hasn’t made any final decisions in that area yet. For the record, Evans said after the match on Sunday that he feels most comfortable at right-back—and he certainly looked solid in that role in the second half against Portland.