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Sounders depth, versatility paying dividends early

Brian Schmetzer has some good problems.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at LA Galaxy Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

At the risk of triggering the dreaded commentator’s curse, it appears Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer has a bit of a first-world problem.

Granted, it’s more the type of problem that arises when you can’t close your wallet because there are too many $20 bills, or your phone keeps annoying you with notifications of dating matches. But problems are still problems.

Schmetzer’s immediate issue seems to be figuring out how to find enough minutes for his talented group. So far, injuries and International callups have made things relatively easy for Schmetzer to manage. Against Sporting Kansas City, Schmetzer had little choice but to juggle the lineup, with six players gone on International duty and forward Herber working his way back from a hamstring injury.

All of the absences meant sending Cristian Roldan back into a fullback role, which Schmetzer said is a testament to his versatility.

“Cristian can play any position on the field, maybe even goalkeeper,” Schmetzer said after the Galaxy victory. “We put him back there because we had to. I like him as a midfielder, that’s his best position. He had two strong games as a defender, and later in the game I pushed him back into midfield, and he did great.”

Saturday against the LA Galaxy, Schmetzer said he wanted to reward the lineup that produced at 4-1 victory in Kansas City, and ease his International players back on the field.

“I’m going to reward the players that do well,” Schmetzer said. “I’m going to try and manage the group as best I can.”

One of those players rewarded for his performace against SKC was Léo Chú, who again justified the decision with a goal and assist against the Galaxy. So it might have been surprising to see him subbed off at the 60th minute. But Schmetzer said that is all part of managing the team.

“I brought Léo Chú off at 60, he had a strong performance,” Schmetzer said. “No player likes to get subbed off, everybody wants to play, everybody wants to start,”

Chú, who's emergence has been long-awaited since being bought in for a fee reported to be in excess of $2 million, said he continues to gain confidence.

“I’m very happy,” Chú said. “As I mentioned last week, I’ve been putting in the work during the week. Once you can have this type of sequence, a player can gain confidence, so the more minutes we play, the better it is.”

Over the course of the MLS season, it’s unlikely Schmetzer will be as spoiled for choice as he is now, but Schmetzer said he has messaged the team about playing for each other and focusing on team goals, even if players historically used to seeing the bulk of the minutes on the field play a little less.

“Individually and collectively in front of the group, that message has been sent to all players, Schmeter said. “That team in that locker room is together, As a collective this team has enough talent and the right mentality to go a long ways in this league.

“But this is a talented group. And Sounders fans should be happy because we’ve got a really freakin’ good team.”

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