TUKWILA, Wash. — After enjoying the luxury of an extended practice week, the Seattle Sounders head into a pivotal game against the LA Galaxy with something approaching a full-strength squad.
With the exception of the first-team players who played in the Tacoma Defiance’s eye-opening 5-1 victory over San Antonio FC Friday night, all available players went through training, with only the previously ruled-out Victor Rodriguez and Will Bruin (ACL) not participating in the Saturday session.
The theme has been consistent throughout the week from the Sounders coaches: get out to a fast start and focus on trying to contain Zlatan Ibrahimović, the Galaxy forward who tortured the Sounders’ back-line for two goals in the meeting a couple weeks ago.
“What I keep trying to message our team is, didn’t it feel nice to go up 2-0 against our last opponent,” coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Can we be effective and clinical in our attacking movements?”
The Sounders’ failure to capitalize on the 10-man Galaxy squad after a 6th minute Daniel Steres red card was not lost on Schmetzer, who conceded the team missed out on a big opportunity.
“I think everyone knows we left a couple of points on the table,” Schmetzer said. “We score a goal, we have a chance to go up 2-0. We go into halftime 2-0, I don’t think they’re coming back.”
As far as Zlatan is concerned, the team will be focused on cutting off his supply lines and defending as a team.
“A lot his goals come from balls being put into the box and winning headers and finishing crosses,” Jordan Morris said. “For me, trying to prevent those crosses into the box could be important from the wings.”
Coach Schmetzer took no small bit of satisfaction in the big victory by the Defiance, especially in light of the struggles from the team this year. The season started with some hope they would compete for a playoff spot, a thought which was quickly dispelled a month into the season. Over the second half of the year, multiple Defiance players have shown improvement and the team performances are indications of that, as well as the professionalism of the young team, according to Schmetzer.
“They’ve had some rough patches,” Schmetzer said. “What I enjoyed about the game last night other than the scoreline was the enthusiasm that they played with at the end of long season. They looked energetic and enthused, and it just shows that those players haven’t given up. So they got rewarded with a very good performance.”