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Sounders training notebook: Bright lights are calling

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Las Vegas native Danny Leyva looking forward to playing in front of his hometown fans with a cup on the line.

Midfielder Danny Leyva will get a chance to play in from of friends and family in Las Vegas in the Leagues Cup final
Miki Turner

TUKWILA, Wash. — Saturday’s disappointing result against Real Salt Lake is firmly in the rearview mirror, and the road ahead holds what has turned into a more anticipated than expected matchup with Club León in the Leagues Cup final. Still, after Monday’s training, head coach Brian Schmetzer took some time to reflect on the team’s — and his — performance.

That the Sounders dropped a 1-0 result in Sandy, Utah isn’t a particular embarrassment. RSL is a decent side and certainly more than formidable at home. But what alarmed Schmetzer more than anything was the team’s inability to create many dangerous chances, and their sluggish start to the second half, when they were punished for the game-winning goal.

“We didn’t create enough chances in the second half,” Schmetzer said. “I reflected on making that change at halftime — left us one (substitution) short. Normally I’m more conservative and I don’t like having subs at halftime. For the players, what can we do better? Every possession is vital, from the simplest throw-ins, to playing out of the back from goal kicks. The concentration in games...is going to be required to get through this final against a really good León team and then this stretch of games where every little detail is going to matter.”

When the Sounders went behind, Schmetzer reverted to a formation that has given him a lot of success during his time as head coach: 4-2-3-1. In this particular match, the change did not produce the desired result. Schmetzer noted the team hasn’t trained in the 4-2-3-1 extensively this season since going to a three-centerback set and he considered the possibility that he took for granted the team’s ability to easily transition based on past experience.

“As the season progresses, there are going to be games where we’re behind, and I take one of the centerbacks off,” Schmetzer said. “Maybe it’s not as automatic as I believe. Little nuances like that, just make sure we’re covering all of the details to push us through a final and the last part of the season.”

With the review of the RSL match done, Schmetzer said the team turned its focus to the much more pleasant prospect of the Leagues Cup final in Las Vegas. The Sounders will train at Starfire Tuesday before chartering to Nevada in the afternoon, where they will do a walkthrough of the stadium. The original plan was to train in Las Vegas, but lack of field access precluded both the Sounders and Club Leon from training at Allegiant.

“We couldn’t get on the game field because they’re changing the sod [because] they want to keep it nice for the final.” Schmetzer said “We’ll going to go through the stadium on a walk-through when we land, we’ll go directly to the stadium and let the players see. Apparently, it’s a really cool stadium.”

One player who is especially looking forward to getting a first-hand look is midfielder Danny Leyva, a native of the Las Vegas area. Levya was recruited by the Sounders a to join their academy as a 13-year-old before signing a homegrown contract in 2019, and his family still lives in the area.

“Obviously it’s a very important final for the club,” Leyva said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to win some silverware for the club. It’s something special obviously, a young kid from Las Vegas having all the fans and family being able to watch the game. It’s going to be a unique opportunity.”

As always when a hometown kid comes home to play, the ticket requests from friends and family come pouring in.

“I haven’t sorted that out yet, but I think I might need a lot of tickets,” Leyva said. “It’s going to be a good setting for a final.”