With only a few weeks to go until his one-year anniversary as head coach of Seattle Sounders FC, Brian Schmetzer is again looking for ways to boost his team into the playoffs and beyond in the second half of the season. With a disjointed couple of weeks ahead of the club (only one league match in a nearly three-week stretch), Schmetzer calls it a “midseason reset, where we’ll get everybody healthy.”
While the Sounders haven’t been hit with the injury bug as badly as some teams, they’ve had their fair share of issues in that department this season. Other than players leaving for the Gold Cup, Schmetzer said every single Sounder will get a fitness plan during this stretch to get them at their absolute best before the season gets back into full swing in mid-July. He singled out players like Gustav Svensson, who have stayed pretty healthy all season, as an example of a player who might not appear to need a special routine. “It’s not just the top guys, everybody is going to have a specific training plan to make sure that when the season starts up again, we’ll have everyone at full strength.”
One player who will likely benefit significantly from the break is Joevin Jones, who has been suffering from a bout of tendonitis in his knee, probably from overuse during the recent fixture congestion. Jones had to come out relatively early in the second half in Portland. “I thought he did well yesterday on the turf, he gave it as long as he could,” Schmetzer said. “It was after the New York game, then he sat on an airplane for seven hours. He was used in Trinidad too...it’s an overuse injury.” Jones has been on anti-inflammatory medication since the issue flared up, and Schmetzer hopes that the next couple matches (including the Open Cup in San Jose) on grass fields will help him play longer.
As the Sounders head to San Jose for that Open Cup match on Wednesday, Schmetzer indicated that he’ll be fielding a slightly more experienced team than the S2-filled squad that defeated Portland 2-1 at Starfire. “We’re gonna add some more veteran guys in there.” He expects a pretty strong lineup from the Earthquakes as well, considering how first-teamers they sent out in the first round and that this will be Chris Leitch’s first game as head coach. “He’s going to want to win his first game, show everybody that he can coach,” Schmetzer added. But also considering that the Earthquakes have a big MLS rivalry match coming up quickly after, it’s hard to tell who the Sounders might face. But Schmetzer said the Earthquakes’ lineup wasn’t his main concern. “The only thing that we’re doing, what we control, is just preparing our team for any version of A, B, and C.”
With the transfer window in MLS looming on the horizon, Schmetzer said he hopes to bring new players into the team, but he’s pleased with how many options he has from his team when everyone is healthy. “It’s still a work in progress, it’ll still be a work in progress if we get a couple players in this window.” He pointed out the emergence of Nouhou as a big boost to his squad, because it allows flexibility with Jones—both if he needs rest and to be pushed further forward in attack. “There are certainly choices to be made when Gustav, Ozzie, Cristian, Dempsey, Nico, Jordan, Bruin, Joevin, they’re all healthy and going.”