Since Brian Schmetzer took over as head coach of the Seattle Sounders in July, the team has improved in numerous areas on both sides of the ball. Under Sigi Schmid, there was a distinct lack of creativity, and much of the blame fell to Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz, who was bought by the club last summer for his crossing ability and dangerous set pieces.
During the portion of the season in which Schmid was at the helm, the Sounders played a very cross-heavy system — either by design or not — that clearly didn’t work. The team hovered near the top of the charts for most crosses attempted in the league, with Ivanschitz occupying a similar position on the individual chart. Even though he did come up big for Seattle at times, it was just too much pressure for a player who isn’t well-rounded enough to be the sole creative outlet.
But in the Schmetzer era, Ivanschitz has thrived as another cog in the Nicolas Lodeiro-powered machine that has been so successful in the last month. After initially being dropped for Schmetzer’s first match in charge, Ivanschitz took advantage of his next opportunity and cemented a place in the starting XI. He admitted that it was hard at first, not thinking he had his new head coach’s trust, but he understood. “Coaches make changes, sometimes it’s good for yourself, sometimes it’s good to have a game’s rest in order to get back on track,” which is exactly what he did. He focused on playing the role outlined for him by Schmetzer, so that he could focus on his “big picture, which is to accomplish the team’s goals and what we have to do.”
It seems that Schmetzer found not only the ideal position for Ivanschitz, but also the ideal mentality and tactical focus that utilizes the Austrian’s skills best. Schmetzer said that Ivanschitz “can be goal dangerous, he’s good on the set pieces, he fills the role out on the left side very well.” The attacking midfield trio of Ivanschitz, Clint Dempsey, and Lodeiro was perfect for all three players, and created a “balance” in that area for Schmetzer. “He’s a smart soccer player,” Schmetzer said regarding Ivanschitz, “I think he finds all those gaps and little spaces to operate in, and that’s what makes him valuable to the team.”
Ivanschitz has responded with a goal and two assists in five appearances under his new coach, giving him a perfectly respectable three goals and seven assists for the season.
Looking ahead to the match against San Jose, Ivanschitz calls it a “final” because of how important it is to the Sounders’ playoff chances. He stresses that while the team feels like they’re having fun again, everyone is very serious about pushing for the playoffs. As for himself, Ivanschitz continues to look at the big picture. “I’m happy to be back in the starting XI in the last couple of games and I hope that I can make an impact in the last, very important games. Everybody is motivated and everybody wants to go to the playoffs.”