By just about any metric, the Seattle Sounders played some of their most entertaining soccer ever last season. They scored 2.0 goals per game (best in franchise history) and generated 1.9 xG (their best mark since that statistic has been kept). The Sounders’ 1.77 points per game were third-best in franchise history and they lost just once at home.
There’s no question that Jordan Morris’ Best XI performance was a big part of that, but Brian Schmetzer does not sound like someone preparing to dramatically change how the Sounders play just because of one missing player. The Sounders still have Nico Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidiaz, as well as a host of other high-quality players.
“It doesn’t go all the way out the window,” Schmetzer said during a recent appearance on the Sounder at Heart podcast. “Raúl is pretty crafty. He has that ability to make unbelievable things happen. Nico is a tremendous player. I think when Brad Smith gets healthy, he can create a ton of excitement. I know there’s a massive debate about Cristian Roldan’s best position, but when he played right wing, his shielding of the ball, b****-slapping opponents, getting to the endline and whipping in balls … we do have exciting players, we do have an exciting team. Taking Jordan out of that, we’ll have to rework some of that, but we still have good pieces there.”
Even if there’s some degradation to the Sounders’ aesthetic qualities, Schmetzer is maybe even more bullish about maintaining the overall standards.
“The expectations are always high,” Schmetzer said. “The personal bar I set for myself is a pretty high standard. The personal standard that Gonzo has, that Preki has, that Tommy Dutra has — their standards are really, really high. I don’t think there’s any fear of ‘Jordan’s not here so it’s OK if we don’t win some games.’ That’s not within our DNA. We’re all highly competitive people. It drives us.
“Our standard is still the same. We want to win every game we go into.”
Along the way, Schmetzer is also committed to helping bring up the next crop of Sounders youngsters, something he admitted took a bit of a hit last year. Players like Ethan Dobbelaere, Shandon Hopeau, Danny Leyva and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez will be among the relatively inexperienced players who will be competing for significant minutes this year.
“The club has to make sure we do the right thing that get them minutes, but also make sure the training environment is good to help them reach their maximum potential,” he said. “Are we doing enough to push that kid to his top level? If that top level is good enough, it’s a success story.”