One could be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu.
Here the Sounders are, coming off a victory against a team from Los Angeles, with two home games, and a chance to solidify their lead atop the standings. In fact, the Sounders were in a similar position just before the June international break, with a victory over LAFC in their pocket, and home games against Atlanta United and Austin FC to look forward to.
Unfortunately, the Sounders were only able to pick up two points in those games, but head coach Brian Schmetzer pushed back against the idea that these are relatively easy points.
“This is MLS, there’s no easy, winnable games,” Schmetzer said. “Statistically, your home games, the home team usually wins. But Atlanta spends a pile of money, they’re a good team. Austin, it was our first time out against them. They’re an expansion team, but LAFC was an expansion team, they did pretty well their expansion year.”
Schmetzer said the messaging hasn’t changed — and won’t change — since those last two home games. Noting that all professional sports are “what have you done for me lately,” Schmetzer said he knows the pressure will ramp up if the results don’t follow. “Two months from now, if we don’t continue to play well, that will be a story, somebody will write about it and they’ll forget about the fast start that we had.
“The messaging is that we have to sustain our success throughout an arduous MLS season.”
Complicating matters a bit in the near term are three games in an eight-day stretch, combined with what Schmetzer conceded is a light roster at the moment. Jordy Delem Stefan Frei, Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris are all out with long-term injuries, while Josh Atencio and Nouhou are working back from shorter-term issues.
Given those injuries, the Sounders will not be able to rotate as much as would probably be ideal, Schmetzer conceded.
“Our bench is fairly thin, so even if I wanted to rotate, it might be one or two spots where I rotate, not four or five like I might do in a normal midweek,” Schmetzer said.
To the degree there will be rotation this week, Schmetzer said it was more likely to come against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday and that the Sounders will “go for it” against RSL.
“I’m going to put a strong lineup out there, and then we’ll pick up the pieces and see who can recover,” Schmetzer said. He also noted that Vancouver will be in a similar situation as the Sounders, playing on Wednesday as well, while Real Salt Lake has a home match on the weekend. “What do they [RSL] do as far as their rotation is concerned, do they think the away game is less important than the home game.” Schmetzer said.
- As far as the injured Sounders close to a return, Schmetzer said that Nouhou was “running around,” but is unlikely to feature in the Wednesday match. Atencio appears ready to play some role against RSL. “He’s going to be involved in the match,” Schmetzer said.
- The Sounders are close to reopening training sessions — to the media at least — as early as next week. Starfire training sessions have been closed since Covid-19 put a hold on the season in March 2020.