SEATTLE — Three games, three losses, three red cards. The Sounders’ early season has been nothing short of a disaster, a statement that could easily be applied to just the losses. But when you pile on the fact that a player has seen red in each of those? Disaster almost seems like an understatement.
Even though the team hasn’t played particularly awful in at least two of those matches, their inability to score goals and properly organize themselves on the field has led to a surge in frustration—which leads to emotional outbursts like Kelvin Leerdam’s on Saturday when VAR encouraged the head referee to send the right-back off for violent conduct.
Head coach Brian Schmetzer is clearly frustrated at his players, and he’s doing everything he can to curb this behavior and get his players to keep themselves composed on the pitch. “It comes down to me,” Schmetzer said in his post-match press conference. “I have to make sure that I tell them exactly what the expectations are of this club. It’s not the way we want to do things.”
Schmetzer said that Leerdam understands what he did wrong and that he apologized, but it’s hard to ignore the trend. After Tony Alfaro and Clint Dempsey were sent off in each of the first two matches, Schmetzer identified that something has to change. “It puts the team in jeopardy, it’s not the style of soccer we want to do. It’s not the sportsmanship that we want to have within this club.”
Emotions run high in soccer, but players at the highest level absolutely have to find ways to keep those emotions in check on the pitch. Schmetzer said that he understands that players feel that way. But he also knows that players know better, especially those with experience. “I get it, guys get heated. It’s the heat of the moment. But that’s actually when you have to be most composed.”
In a comment that seemed a bit out of character for Schmetzer, the Sounders coach issued something of an ultimatum that highlights how serious he is about snuffing out this sort of behavior at his club. “Players make mistakes. But the mistakes have to stop happening. If the mistakes don’t stop happening, then guys don’t stay on the field.” His message to his players is clear: let your emotions get the best of you and you won’t play.