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Lineup conundrum is ‘good problem’ to have

Brian Schmetzer still isn’t quite sure how to balance all the talent at his disposal.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at LA Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

TUKWILA — Fresh off a second straight road win — their first winning streak away from home since 2021 — Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer is faced with the kind of dilemma all coaches want. He’s got too many players who have shown they deserve to start.

At the top of that list are veteran strikers Raúl Ruidíaz and Héber. To get either of them onto the field, Schmetzer will have to move at least one of Léo Chú or Jordan Morris — who have combined for six goals and five assists over the past two games — out of the positions where they’ve been excelling.

“It’s gotten more challenging,” Schmetzer said about the lineup calculus. “But it’s a good problem to have.”

Schmetzer was not willing to give any overt indications about what he plans to do, but he did seem to hint at possibly changing things up from the past two games when he noted that playing on the road often requires different tactics than playing at home. The Sounders were likely more inclined to sit back, especially against a ball-dominant team like the LA Galaxy.

Perhaps adding to his belief that a change might be due, Schmetzer voiced some frustration with how the Sounders played, especially in the second half against the Galaxy.

“We’re out here a little later than usual because we had a little longer film session,” Schmetzer said. “The question that I can pose is ‘Did we play up to our standard?’ or do we give credit to the opponent? I think it was a little bit of both.

“We didn’t play well in the second half at all. I’m not convinced that was just because of the second forward. We gave some easy balls away. We had some good transition moments that could have put the game away, which is our style.”

What to make of the new kids

St. Louis City presents a new kind of challenge. Even in a league with several teams built on the press, City has stood out. By various metrics, they are the most active defensive team in the league and have been remarkably effective at turning that into scoring chances. City leads the league with 16 shots and three goals created from high turnovers.

City’s high press has fueled a record start for an expansion team, leading them to a 5-0-0 record before losing to Minnesota United last week.

While the Sounders won’t have a chance to hand City their first loss, they can displace them at the top of the Western Conference.

“We know this is a good team,” Sounders midfielder João Paulo said. “We know we have to be prepared.”

Still gaining fitness

From the outside, João Paulo’s return has been remarkably smooth. The defensive midfielder leads the Sounders in tackles (21), tackles won (9), interceptions (12) and accurate passes per game (60.2). But he says he’s still something short of 100%.

“I’m still building my fitness level,” he told reporters. “There’s a lot on the mental side of things, I’m trying to be more confident on the ball especially. There are certain plays I try to modify.”

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