The Seattle Sounders are set for a historic home opener on Sunday at CenturyLink Field against the New York Red Bulls. The match is not only important because they get to unfurl their MLS Cup championship banner at home, but also because it mirrors their first ever MLS home opener exactly eight years later.
The Sounders’ MLS franchise opened play on March 19, 2009 against the New York Red Bulls, a 3-0 win that head coach Brian Schmetzer said has “lots of stories.” Even though he was just Sigi Schmid’s assistant at the time, Schmetzer said that the day was very important to him. “How about this, the Seattle fans, born and raised around here, when we walked out and the fans were just going nuts and cheering. For a guy like me, that was impressive.”
Schmetzer recalls a lot of details of that day, including Fredy Montero’s—and Seattle’s—first MLS goal. He tried to recall the more specific details of the goal: “I think Sebastian [Le Toux] was almost offside on that goal, wasn’t he the one that kind of came in there late?” Schmetzer noted a few more of the names that stick out in his memory as being on the team, “you had Seba, Zach, Sanna Nyassi, you had a bunch of guys out there. Keller in goal, that was a big deal, to bring the hometown guy home. Ozzie was a USL guy, and he played tremendous.”
But even though he remembers that day well, Schmetzer said that he also wants the players to celebrate their MLS Cup with the fans on Sunday. “I want them to feel that this is a big event. I want them to feel that this is kind of a reward for all of last year.” But after they enjoy that and see the banner and walk out onto the pitch, it’s time to for the Sounders to put their heads down and focus. “And then there’s a game to play. I need their mentality to be right, in making sure that they don’t get swept away in the occasion and that they remember there’s a game going on.”
Even though the team has just one point from its first two matches, Schmetzer is confident in his team and his coaching staff. He pointed out defending as being an obvious area that must improve. “We watched film again this morning, we make corrections, we train, we believe in the way we train, we believe in the process.” But even though assistant coaches like Gonzalo Pineda and Djimi Traore raise the level of training and force the players to work hard in their sessions, it’s up to the players to do the work once the whistle blows. “It’s easy for me, because I can say the words. It’s harder for them to go and apply what we say or what they see.”