zTUKWILA, Wash. — With the emotions starting to dull from what was one of the most frustrating losses in recent Seattle Sounders memory, head coach Brian Schmetzer was taking a bit more of a clear-eyed view on Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Portland Timbers.
The biggest change in heart was somewhat walking back his assertion that there was “nothing” positive to take away from a match that the Sounders mostly dominated for 70 minutes before completely falling apart.
“The first half we had clear half-chances,” he said. “The second half we started off very well, we were all over them. The goal actually comes from a ball that’s turned over, almost 3-v-2. There were a lot of unseen positives at the time.”
Beyond the play of the first 70 minutes, Schmetzer also found some solace in taking a bigger-picture view, noting that after eight games the Sounders are 5-2-1. Just under a quarter of the way through the season, the Sounders are on pace for 68 points and just two points behind current Supporters’ Shield leaders St. Louis City.
“How do you balance what you feel in here — about losing games to your rival in that fashion — and understanding that you have a really good team?” he said. “That’s where I’m at. That’s the message I’m giving to the team. Be pissed off, but understand that we’re a good team.”
He also said he’d had some time to reflect on the 69th-minute substitution in which he brought in Héber for Léo Chú and switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2. About three minutes after making that move, Dairon Asprilla scored the equalizer on a perfectly-executed bicycle kick that dramatically shifted the momentum.
Until that point, the Sounders seemed to be firmly in control, controlling possession and generating better scoring chances. Schmetzer had hoped that Héber would help them get an insurance goal that never came. A week earlier, Schmetzer had made a similar move and the Sounders had played very well, albeit at home and already holding a 2-0 lead.
Playing on the road against an opponent who had beaten the Sounders three straight times, the safer move might have been bringing in veteran centerback Xavier Arreaga.
“The sub I made in this game didn’t work,” Schmetzer said. “It wasn’t Héber’s problem, it wasn’t Chú’s problem. Léo played well, I think he was pretty good. Maybe my old pragmatic self would have said leave the kid on, Xavi’s been a good player for this club for many years. Maybe we shut it down with Xavi at 80 and play five at the back. Maybe that’s a better decision. Was I confident in the way the team was performing? Did we have control of the game? Absolutely.”
“Maybe we should have locked it down, just see this one out,” he continued. “I’ll reflect on that next time we’re away from home.”
One other area for potential second-guessing was in the Sounders’ preparation. After the game, Schmetzer suggested that after four straight losses the matchup “didn’t feel like it’s a rivalry.” How much of that is on Schmetzer and the coaches for not properly preparing the players?
“There was a lot of reflection done about the messaging,” he said. “I don’t think we faulted on the message. I felt we faulted on some execution of myself and the players on the field.”
Alex Roldán said he agreed with that assessment.
“The preparation for this game and how we set up mentally was there,” Roldán said. “We all wanted to beat them there. We would have been top of the table. We just didn’t close out the game.”
Cristian Roldan remains in concussion protocol
Although he was able to participate in a few drills, Cristian Roldan remains in concussion protocol and is at best questionable for Saturday’s game against Minnesota United. Schmetzer reiterated that even though Roldan trained all week, he was put in the protocol as soon as the diagnosis was made.
“Their health is the most important,” Schmetzer said. “If you feel anything, it’s a good reminder you don’t need to get hit in the head. I don’t think Cristian fully understood how he felt. As soon as he gave us the information, we shut him down.”
Other injury updates
- Albert Rusnák was back in full training after missing Saturday’s game with heel pain. He should be available against Minnesota.
- The prognosis was not quite as good for Josh Atencio, who also missed last week’s game after suffering an adductor injury during training. He was still training on the side and is unlikely to be available this weekend.