Even though the first game of the 2017 MLS season didn’t go particularly well for the Seattle Sounders, head coach Brian Schmetzer said his team is putting the result behind them and ready for Week 2 in Montreal. Even though his team wasn’t as "sharp" as they should have been in the first half against Houston last weekend, the improvement in the second half was more than enough for Schmetzer to feel optimistic about the future.
Schmetzer said the first thing the team did on Tuesday was watch film of Saturday’s match, which appeared to make some players visibly angry at themselves. But after the coaching staff helped them "digest" the game, Schmetzer said the mood improved. Regarding the match itself, Schmetzer said to "give credit to Houston, they came out fired up. But I think our play wasn’t as sharp as it should have been. A couple of plays where we gave the ball away contributed to them gaining some momentum early in the game."
What Schmetzer said pleased him the most about Saturday’s game was how his team responded in the second half, in which his squad dominated possession, scored a goal, and created numerous other chances. At halftime, the coaching staff got "a reaction out of the group that we need to see a change in the second half," and Schmetzer said that the players clearly responded well to that. "I think they positively took the instructions and were able to implement what we saw."
Looking ahead to this weekend’s matchup in Montreal against the Impact, Schmetzer praised both his squad and the opponent. "I would match up Clint, Ozzie, and Roldan against most midfields in our league." He said that Montreal’s midfield, combined with their ferocious attack, will make for "a tough match." Since the match will be played in the Olympic Stadium rather than Saputo Stadium, Schmetzer said that the larger surface area of the pitch will make midfield dominance even more important than usual.
Montreal might view the stadium change as an added advantage, both because of the likely crowd size and the harder turf surface, but the Sounders have their own secret weapon—former Impact midfielder Harry Shipp. Even though Shipp was only at Montreal for a year before getting traded to Seattle before this season, he said "a lot of the guys are similar, so I’m trying to help in whatever way I can." Schmetzer said that Shipp "re-watched his game that they played against Toronto there, and he’s going to give me a little cheat sheet of things they discussed tactically for that game last year."
While Shipp is still waiting for his first MLS minutes in a Seattle jersey, Schmetzer said that he was very pleased with Clint Dempsey’s first league action since returning from his irregular heartbeat. Even though Schmetzer was "happy" for Dempsey’s goal, he said that he was a little nervous about leaving the player in for the entire match. "We had possession of the ball, the game was at a slower tempo for us, that’s why we elected to keep him out there." The good news is that Dempsey not only made it through that entire match, but he also scored the Sounders’ only goal of the match—meaning that he didn’t lose his finishing touch during his absence.
Midfielder Gustav Svensson played nearly 90 minutes (Henry Wingo came on for him late on) in his competitive debut for Seattle, albeit at right back, which he hadn’t played in a league match in years. Schmetzer praised the Swede for his willingness: "for a guy who is just coming in and filling in, he was good." Svensson seems to still be getting acclimated to the position again, but he may actually have some competition this weekend from Oniel Fisher. Even though the Jamaican fullback cleared concussion protocol on Friday, the coaching staff hadn’t deemed him fit enough to start in Svensson’s place.