Under just about any circumstance, an MLS team finishing its first eight games with five wins and three draws would be a reason to puff out their chest. But when two of those three draws happen at home to close out the first quarter of the season, it can be a cause for some reflection, if not concern.
So as the Sounders finish up their three-week international break from MLS play, head coach Brian Schmetzer has had a lot to think about as he hopes to tweak a few things that led to what was by all accounts two disappointing results.
The draws against Atlanta United and Austin FC posed different issues for Schmetzer and his coaches to work through over the break. Against Atlanta, the Sounders were arguably outplayed for large stretches of the game, and had difficulty creating opportunities. Schmetzer indicated that it was a combination of Atlanta’s tactics, combined with an uncharacteristically poor performance by the Sounders.
“We always try to get out outside backs involved and higher up the field, but sometimes during games that just doesn’t happen,” Schmetzer said. “Your opponent does things or you’re just having an off day. We didn’t have enough possession against Atlanta.”
While the Sounders were at least able to get on the scoresheet against Atlanta, the matchup against Austin FC was a more dour 0-0 affair. Schmetzer thought the Sounders showed improvement in that game, but were lacking quality on the attacking end of the field. “The Austin game I think we played better, our possession was better [but] I think we were just missing those critical passes in the final third,” Schmetzer said.
Schmetzer said he thought the attacking movements by and large were fine, but that there were some technical issues in the execution of certain plays. Schmetzer cited one series that left wingback Brad Smith with the opportunity to center a ball to Raúl Ruidíaz, but the pass was behind the streaking forward.
“That’s not a tactical mistake, that’s a technical mistake,” Schmetzer said. “So a lot of the work that we’re looking at is to use this downtime to work on the players’ individual technical abilities to make sure when they’re in those moments, they can make the plays to help us score goals.
“So hopefully what we’ve learned over those past two games will push us over the edge and we’ll win a few more games.”
The Sounders have a fairly home-heavy schedule as play resumes, and Schmetzer said he knows the importance of continuing the hot start to the season, especially when the road games pile up towards the end of the season. The team’s defensive prowess — they have yet to give up a goal from the run of play — should allow the Sounders to be competitive when they’re on the road.
“We’ve always been a fairly decent, above average away team,” Schmetzer said “The way we’re set up defensively this year, we might collect a few more points [and] improve on that away record.”
- Schmetzer said that Josh Atencio will be in full training Friday, though whether he features in the match against the Galaxy is unclear. Schmetzer had previously said that it might be a bit too early for the midfielder based on the nature of the injury, and the requirements of the position.
- Ruidiaz has returned to the team and is in training. “He’s happy to be home. He is motivated,” Schmetzer said.
- Schmetzer said he doesn’t expect to have any injury updates on Stefan Frei, Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris or Jordy Delem for the foreseeable future. “When things get close... when Nico starts training, I’ll let you know.”