TUKWILA, Wash. – With a win under their belt, the Seattle Sounders’ Wednesday training session at Starfire Sports seemed to be reflecting higher spirits thanks to the twin joys of victory and good weather. The mood was noticeably lighter and players were even laughing during drills as they underwent their first practice of the week. Head coach Brian Schmetzer described the day as light work ahead of several more days of serious preparation for the club’s upcoming road trip to Los Angeles FC for the first-ever match and Banc of California Stadium.
“It’s crazy how emotions can run high when you’re not winning and not scoring,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said. “Then you get one win and a few goals and it’s like nothing ever happened. It’s good to get the first three points under our belt, but the schedule gets even tougher in the next month or so.”
“Tougher” starts with the away trip to California to face LAFC, impressively off to a 4-2-0 start in league play after six consecutive road matches while their new downtown stadium was being finished. Only one Western Conference team had more than LAFC’s four road wins all of last year, and their 16 goals is tied for third best in all of MLS.
Bruin, who has scored in the last two matches for the Sounders, would love to spoil LAFC’s opening day fun.
“I look at it as ‘hey, let’s go ruin their party,’” Bruin said. “They’re opening a new stadium, they want the result, they want a nice easy game. We can go in and play spoiler. To be honest, the pressure is on them. It’s their first game in their stadium and they don’t want to open with a loss. That’s what we want them to do.”
Schmetzer admitted that having a chance to get a measure of revenge for LAFC beating the Sounders in the season opener is a good motivator.
“I think it’s in everybody’s minds, really,” Schmetzer said. “The players are competitive, they want to win. Would it be nice because it’s their opener and they spoiled our home opener? Sure. A little bit of revenge there, but at the end of the day we need a good performance to give us a chance to win because we understand that they’ll be hyped up.”
Bruin went on to explain that, while the club wasn’t certain how LAFC’s formation will look (they’ve tinkered with it in recent matches), the requirements for Seattle would remain the same.
“We’re going to have to be compact and organized as a unit,” Bruin said. “Their first six games, they’ve scored a lot of goals. We’re going to have to be tough against the ball and go and transition when we get the opportunity.”
The few matches that comprise LAFC’s history have been a wild ride so far. A 5-1 demolition of Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium was followed by a dramatic 4-3 loss to LA Galaxy in El Trafico, in which they blew a 3-0 lead thanks largely to a Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal that you’ve probably already seen 100 times. Then, after a 5-0 embarrassment at Atlanta United, the club has won its last two matches, including a game at Montreal in which they erased a 3-1 deficit.
For Schmetzer, LAFC’s ups and downs have matched the league-wide bizarreness that he feels is governing the season’s opening months.
“There was an article about the younger designated players coming in and scoring a bunch of goals,” Schmetzer said. “Is it new coaches? Is it a new season where you’re not good defensively? We’re a little disjointed defensively early in the year. It could be a wide range of things, but the score lines and the games have been fairly interesting. Unless you’re on the wrong side of a red card or something like that.”
From the Sounders’ perspective, why shouldn’t a weird start to the year include the league’s newest team tripping up in its first home match?