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Don’t expect drastic changes to lineup, yet

Schmetzer wants to see a lineup with everyone in preferred positions before making drastic changes.

Last Updated
3 min read

RENTON – Winless through five games and all alone at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, Brian Schmetzer declared after Saturday’s loss to the LA Galaxy that “everything is on the table” as far as lineup decisions go.

With a couple days to process and rewatch the match, the Seattle Sounders head coach somewhat walked back that statement on Tuesday.

“You guys have asked about lineup changes, but we haven’t had one consistent lineup throughout the first set of games,” Schmetzer told reporters, alluding to the Sounders using five different lineups in their five games. “There are certain things I want to see, that certain players have earned over the course of time here. But if that ain’t going work against Montreal you certainly might see some more changes.”

That doesn’t mean the Sounders are likely to set up exactly how they did against the Galaxy. Schmetzer said he had been hoping to start Obed Vargas, but after the midfielder failed to get cleared from concussion protocol that “threw a wrench in things.” Without Vargas, Schmetzer opted to start Cristian Roldan in the double-pivot alongside Josh Atencio, move Alex Roldan to right midfield and insert Cody Baker into the lineup at right back.

Aside from the first five minutes when the Galaxy hit the post and then scored the game’s only goal, the Sounders played pretty well with that setup. But Schmetzer pointed out that the entire team looked more cohesive after the Roldans switched positions in the second half, when the Sounders out shot the Galaxy 8-3 and had a 58-42 possession advantage.

“I still think he’s better up front,” Schmetzer said when asked to assess Cristian Roldan’s play.

Assuming Vargas is available, the Sounders would also be able to start a game with everyone in positions they’ve trained in extensively for the first time this season.

Delicate balancing act

As the Sounders try to navigate their way out of the predicament they’ve put themselves in, coaches are trying to maintain the delicate balance of holding players accountable for mistakes while not destroying morale.

For instance, Schmetzer did not feel compelled to go over the Galaxy’s goal off a shot that Stefan Frei would normally save or harp on the sloppy defending that allowed the shot in the first place. But they did talk about the Colorado Rapids’ equalizing goal a couple of weeks ago, noting that it was Albert Rusnák’s responsibility to cover that post on a potential rebound.

“The message to the players, to the fans, everyone who watches: We’re in last place; we couldn’t score,” Schmetzer said. “But the Galaxy, the team in first place, didn’t play us off the park. They had a moment of quality — or maybe Stef was a little rusty — first five minutes they were on top of us, that’s on me, but how does that look on film? It looks like we created a lot of good chances and just couldn’t score.

“It’s instilling some confidence. The film showed the team has performed well in certain spots on the field. The one area where we haven’t performed well is where it matters the most, inside the 18-yard box.”

Rusnák, who made his first start of the season, said it was good to be reminded of those positives but admitted it rings a little hollow when you look at the table.

“The main focus is results and points,” he said. “If you really look at the game, other than starting off slowly, the majority of the game I think we played well. We had a great chance with Jordan at the end. We had a couple other half-chances that maybe if we’re winning games, those go in. I don’t think it was a poor game. But it’s tough to look at any positives when the result is a loss.”