If this year has seemed to be filled with intense schedule congestion followed by brief respites, there’s a good reason for that: It has. The Seattle Sounders have already played four three-game weeks and two six-game months, and they’re about to embark on their busiest stretch of the season.
Starting with Saturday’s match against Minnesota United, the Sounders will play at least six matches over 23 days, and that’s not even counting a potential Leagues Cup final thatwould be added to the middle of it.
“The games are coming fast and furious,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said following Wednesday’s training session. “I feel like we’ve been saying that all year. It’s been a lull and a bunch of games, a lull and a bunch of games. We have to have everybody ready because there’s going to be a bunch of opportunities.”
While the pace of matches is probably not ideal, it’s not so different from what all teams have experienced after the season’s start was delayed by a month due to Covid-19 concerns and the CBA negotiations. But unlike most teams, the Sounders have managed their fixture congestion reasonably well despite dealing with a rash of injuries for much of the season.
The Sounders have gone 9-2-1 and averaged 2.33 points per game during their previous four three-game weeks, despite playing eight of those 12 matches on the road.
One key to their success has been an ability to rotate their lineups heavily, something they’ll almost certainly do again now.
That they’ve performed as well as they have in adverse conditions gives Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer a bit of added peace of mind during a stretch that features five matches against Western Conference opponents and potentially four games away from Seattle. He said the seeds for this sort of success were planted several years ago when the Sounders first made it a priority to incorporate their academy and USL players into first-team training, and it was helped by the strong start, as they never felt pressure to over-extend veterans or rush back key contributors from injury.
“We’ve been able to manage on the front foot,” Schmetzer said. “The final piece, the one I’m most proud of, is our road form has been tremendous. That gives me confidence along with the other pieces in knowing we have young guys who are ready, knowing we’re in a good position in the standings and that mentality of that group makes my job a little easier.”
Sounders upcoming schedule
|Sept. 11||Minnesota United||Seattle||MLS|
|Sept. 14||Santos Laguna||Seattle||Leagues Cup|
|Sept. 18||Real Salt Lake||Sandy, Utah||MLS|
|Sept. 22||TBD||Las Vegas||Leagues Cup*|
|Sept. 26||Sporting KC||Kansas City, Kan.||MLS|
|Sept. 29||San Jose Earthquakes||San Jose||MLS|
|Oct. 3||Colorado Rapids||Seattle||MLS|