TUKWILA, Wash. – After looking through the film and with a couple more days to reflect, Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said he was able to find some positives in what was an otherwise disappointing loss to Atlanta United.
"The message we’re sending to the players is you’re this close to being a good team," Schmetzer said following Wednesday's training session. "We had a lot of prime-assist zone entries — I know a lot of the xG came off pressing — but we had a lot of guys get into the prime-assist zone. So our teaching point was ‘what do we do when the ball gets there?’"
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Schmetzer pointed out that both Léo Chú and Jordan Morris were particularly effective at getting into dangerous areas. The problem, he said, was a combination of poor passes, poor decisions and poor supporting runs. Still, he was satisfied with the effort in the game and the attitude in the training session, while acknowledging that results need to improve after a third straight multi-goal loss.
"We trust our process, I trust our players," he said. "The ideas that didn’t manifest themselves against Atlanta might manifest themselves against Minnesota. We’ll see because we put in a lot of subtle tweaks in how we try to play and what we’re trying to accomplish. If those don’t work we’ll try something else. Time and excuses are going to run short here, but we’re still going to keep trying."
One way to kickstart some of that change, Schmetzer hopes, is by tweaking the lineup. Aside from goalkeeper, Schmetzer had used the same starting group in the Sounders' last two games. He said there would be heavier rotation for the midweek game at Austin FC and then would go "all in" when the Sounders host the Portland Timbers on Sept. 2. It's a grueling stretch of three games in seven days that could end up defining the Sounders' season.
Schmetzer knows that will inevitably lead to some uncomfortable conversations. He said he simply tries to approach his players with honesty and hopes they'll understand.
"Some of those [conversations] have already taken place and more will come," he said. "Players are always disappointed when they come out of games or when they don’t start. I like that. I think it means they care.
"There is a side of that that can be dangerous, they fall off a cliff and it looks bad, and it shows up to teammates and fans. I get that."
A familiar face
Former Sounders assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson was a surprise guest at training. Although Schmetzer said he asked Hendrickson for his assessment of the Sounders – about which he was tight-lipped – it was apparently more of a social visit.
"Ezra is a good friend," Schmetzer said. "It was good to see him. He’s out visiting Seattle and I told him to come watch, see what he thinks. The players were all happy to see him."
Cristian Roldan update
The Sounders continue to be cautious with bringing back Cristian Roldan from his second concussion of the season. After leaving Roldan off the gameday roster against Atlanta, Schmetzer was hopeful but still non-commital about including his midfielder against Minnesota.
"It's up to the medical docs and Cristian how he feels," Schmetzer said. "Today was hard, it was a work day. Tomorrow will be a work day and we’ll check in after those two hard days and make a decision."
Other availability updates
- Stefan Cleveland returned to Sounders training after missing part of last week on bereavement leave due to his father's death in a car accident. "That’s one positive of today," Schmetzer said. "The guys are all supporting him. It was a tough moment for Stefan Cleveland. A sign of a team not splitting apart, they bonded together to help Stefan get through a difficult, challenging part of is life."
- Kelyn Rowe was due back from a muscle injury around now but a calf injury has pushed that back. "He's a ways away," Schmetzer said.