It’s officially MLS Cup Playoff week, and the Seattle Sounders returned to training Tuesday ahead of the matchup Saturday with what seems like perennial playoff opponents FC Dallas. Saturday’s matchup will mark the fourth time the Sounders have faced off against the Frisco-based MLS side in the playoffs since 2014. The Sounders have a 2-1 record in those playoff series with the only loss happening in 2015, which saw the Sounders eliminated in penalties.
Very few Sounders remain from those early playoff contests, but coach Brian Schmetzer has been here for them all—originally as an assistant to Sigi Schmidt before taking over for the 2016 run to MLS Cup.
“A bit of a blur,” Schmetzer said referring to the 2016 run. “When I reflect back on it now, it seems pretty incredible, the way the guys came together. Ozzie leading the charge, Roman [Torres] in the locker room, a lot of good storylines about how guys really came together. You need that to win a championship. You need guys to believe they can win.”
The 2016 series against Dallas was particularly memorable for the three goals in eight minute spurt, which Schmetzer said gave the team breathing room going into the second leg in Frisco, which they lost 2-1 but advanced on aggregate. “That was a big turnaround for us,” Schmetzer said.
The change to the MLS playoff format means the aggregate series are a thing of the past, so the Sounders will simply focus on putting their best performance out against a Dallas side whom they didn’t beat this year. “The messaging is, we have to play hard,” Schmetzer said. “We understand it’s going to be a physical match.”
Both the Sounders and FC Dallas squads will be somewhat different from the teams that met in September and played to a 0-0 draw. The Sounders were dealing with injuries and rotation due to a congested schedule, while FC Dallas didn’t feature striker Zdeněk Ondrášek, who scored for the Czech Republic against England during the international break. “Any time a forward is feeling confident, that always gives you cause for concern,” Schmetzer said. “He’s certainly a quality player.”
Sounders right back Kelvin Leerdam said that the team is aware of Ondrášek’s recent exploits and they’ll use this week to prepare for him. “We know the players,” Leerdam said. “The coaches tell us everything about them, we have video. The only guy we didn’t play was the Czech striker this season, so that’s maybe a new guy, but I’m sure we’ll get clips on him too so we should not be too surprised.”
Victor Rodriguez was in training today, and Schmetzer said he got through “3/4” of training today. “If he gets to full, that’ll [put] a smile on my face,” Schmetzer said. The Sounders who have been on international duty have started to return to the team, though the full squad probably won’t be in training as a group until Thursday or Friday.