The Seattle Sounders may be flying high at the top of the standings early in this season, but head coach Brian Schmetzer knows that just means the fall could be more painful.
That’s especially true if it’s the Portland Timbers who clip their wings.
With that in mind, Schmetzer issued a warning of sorts to his team ahead of their matchup with their most bitter rivals on Sunday (Noon, ABC, ESPN Deportes). Nothwithstanding the Timbers’ early season troubles — including a 1-2-0 start in MLS play and an ouster in the Quarterfinals of the Champions League — Schmetzer said he’s told his team the Timbers will be itching to get one over on the Sounders, especially in front of a hostile crowd at Providence Park.
“I’ve been messaging that this could be the best thing for Portland,” Schmetzer said. “They’re coming back into league play and who they get first? It’s their arch rivals. They’re going to have fans in the building, they’re going to get pumped up [and] they can push past with a good victory against the Sounders.”
Still, the version of the Timbers that the Sounders see on Sunday could include some rotation, given the Timbers’ loss to Club America on Wednesday. Most of the first team played significant minutes, and given the ages of some of their key players, the Sounders may not have to deal with some of their impact players, at least to start.
“Are they going to play with two forwards? What’s [Diego] Valeri’s status,” Schmetzer asked rhetorically. “They usually are a team that defends well and catches you in transition...so we want to make sure we clean up our defending.”
The Sounders have registered a shutout in two of their first three games, and the only goal they’ve conceded came from a fluky free kick. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei credited the team with adapting to new formation quickly. He especially called out Nouhou for quickly taking to the left center back position.
“I think he’s been phenomenal,” Frei said. “I’m so happy to see him playing the way he has been. Nouhou is so athletic, that sometimes he turned things into a game and he really wanted to show his athleticism. Now having slid back one step further, he is getting introduced to the pressures of being at the back.
“They’re the last line of defense before I come into play. It just shifts you mentality a little bit. But he still has that athleticism in him so that when he presented with a real challenge he can do it. He seems way more mature.”
Schmetzer noted this is the beginning of a tough stretch for the Sounders with three games in a week, including two on the road. A couple of poor results could have the Sounders falling from the top of the west to the middle of the pack, and make the talk of a fast start a distant memory.
“Yes, we’ve played well these first three games, but this is a tough week. It starts with a rivalry game. My message has been one of warning.”
- Schmetzer said Nicolas Lodeiro came through his reserve appearance against the LA Galaxy none the worse for wear, though he wouldn’t comment on whether the midfielder would start. The news wasn’t quite as good for Josh Atencio, who Schmetzer ruled out for the game against Portland. The quad injury he sustained is “day-to-day,” according to Schmetzer.