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Brian Schmetzer on a full Brougham End: ‘Things are starting to get back to normal’

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Vaccinated sections should come close to doubling capacity.

SOCCER: NOV 10 MLS Cup Final - Toronto FC at Seattle Sounders FC Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It will be a sight not seen in well over a year, when the Seattle Sounders emerge from the entry tunnel this Sunday to take on Atlanta United.

A packed supporters section will greet the Sounders in full voice for the first time since March 7, 2020 when they played the Columbus Crew to a 1-1 draw. Shortly after, the MLS season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sounders would, of course, return to play later that year, albeit without fans. Fans returned to the stadium this year, but only in socially distant pods. And while 7,000 sports-deprived fans can make for a solid atmosphere, it’s still not quite the same.

Fortunately, a full Brougham End with the Emerald City Supporters in full voice should make the Sounders feel something closer to at home. The Sounders announced a change to their policy earlier this week, which will allow fans who are in designated sections to stand shoulder-to-shoulder without masks if they so desire. The change to the club policy that was announced on May 11 comes following the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer — who earlier this week shared pictures of his recently renewed ECS membership — is particularly enthused about the prospect of having more fans in the stadium.

“I love being part of that group,” Schmetzer said. “I love the fact that we have passionate fans, not just in that area of the stadium but all around the stadium.”

The fans who have been in attendance thus far have done a good job of providing some semblance of home-field advantage. Over the three games, their coordination on things like boom-boom-clap and various call-and-repeats has improved even without the normal cues. But seated in a stadium that can seat nearly 10 times that amount, it only goes so far. The vaccinated sections will likely only increase capacity to about 13,000-14,000 but the concentration of voices in the supporters’ section should be particularly noticeable.

“I think the people that have been to our stadium thorough this Covid period have made a lot of noise,” Schmetzer said. “But the full Brougham End, it makes it feel that we’re coming out of this a little bit. Things are starting to get back to normal.

“It feels like kind of a normal Sounders game.”

It wasn’t lost on Schmetzer that Atlanta United, for the last two years the new kid on the block, brought 40,000 to their last game, and has smashed many of the attendance records that the Sounders set as they made a name for themselves in MLS. And while Atlanta’s on-field performance has suffered in the last 12 months, Schmetzer said his goals are the same, whether there is one fan in attendance or 40,000.

“We’re at home, and my expectation for this game is the same,” Schmetzer said. “We go out and try to dictate tempo to them. We want to be on the front foot.

“We want to make sure that they understand that this is our home and there is a noticeable home-field advantage in MLS.”

The Sounders will still require vaccinated and non-vaccinated fans to wear masks while on the concourses. Fans can download a copy of their vaccination records at the Washington State Department of Health. Vaccines are currently freely available throughout the county for walk-in appointments and the Sounders are offering free vaccines to anyone who attends games.