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Was hard-fought win exactly what Sounders needed?

Sounders insist that recovering from two-goal blitz was better than cruising to victory.

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3 min read

RENTON — On its face, there’s an obvious logic to preferring a relatively stress-free 4-0 win over a nail-biting 3-2 victory. But given the benefit of hindsight — especially knowing that his team won the game — Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer insisted that he might actually prefer the latter.

Schmetzer’s reasoning is relatively straightforward: There’s benefit in coming through some adversity.

“The season hasn’t started well, but that’s a proud group,” Schmetzer told reporters. “They’re not going to give up. They’re backed into a corner, but they’re going to come out swinging. Even if we don’t have a successful season, they’ll fight the entire way. It’s passed on from generation to generation. That mentality is there.”

The Sounders certainly showed some of that in their win over the Philadelphia Union, just their second of the season and first on the road. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead and playing just about perfectly in the first half, the Sounders had a couple of decent chances to add a fourth goal only to come up a bit short.

Buoyed by three halftime changes, the Union came storming back shortly after the Sounders failed to put the game away. They scored two goals in quick succession, forcing the Sounders to play out the final 30-odd minutes under some intense pressure.

Aside from forcing the Sounders to show some mental toughness, there were also some genuine learning moments.

Schmetzer was particularly frustrated that “one player wasn’t in the right spot” on Jack McGlynn’s goal that came indirectly off a corner kick. McGlynn, generally considered to have one of the best left foots in MLS, was allowed to line up an almost completely uncontested shot through an open window from about 19 yards out. Compounding that mistake was that the Union were able to score a goal in transition literally the next time they got the ball.

“That’s something we identified that we need to do better,” Schmetzer said. “The film was a lot of positives, but we need to make sure we learn and get those details correct. We shouldn’t miss on corner kick defending.”

When the Union scored their second goal, it felt almost inevitable that they’d find a way to get at least one more. Instead, the Sounders tightened up. Albert Rusnák was inserted into the game and the Sounders took the air out of the game, limiting the Union to just five shots the rest of the way.

Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei did not play against the Union, but he felt as though grinding out that win has more potential long-term benefits than the 5-0 win over CF Montreal did.

“Everyone makes errors, but can you learn from them?” he said. “Can you try to acknowledge them, understand how they came about and then have others try to help them avoid that situation again? That’s key. That’s why I believe hardship in a season is always important. If you cruise through the whole year and then it becomes hard in the playoffs, it’s difficult. We’ve had more hardship then we’d probably like already but I believe we’ll find our stride. When we get into the playoffs or into a difficult situation when it really counts, we can look back and say we fought back a million times and push back again.”

Still frustrated

Frei was as happy as anyone that his red card against D.C. United was rescinded by the Independent Review Panel, making him eligible to play against the LA Galaxy on Sunday. But he was still a bit beside himself that he was given a red card in the first place.

By Frei’s reasoning, he played that situation how virtually any goalkeeper would. He made himself big, tried to predict where the ball was going and was unfortunate to take out the attacker. By overturning the red card, the review panel seems to have been saying that the correct call is penalty and yellow card. Frei would like something a bit more formal, though.

“Reflecting on that incident I was left not knowing what I should have done different,” Frei said. “In that scenario, if my [red card] stood, how can a goalkeeper ever challenge for a ball unless they’re totally sure they’re going to win the ball? I’m happy they rescinded it but it would be nice if it came from the top down so the referees also have some clarity.”

Short-handed Galaxy

The Galaxy are the top scoring team in the Western Conference, but will be missing two key offensive contributors on Sunday. Midfielder Riqui Puig is out with yellow card accumulation, while forward Dejan Joveljic is out with an injury.

Josh Atencio, for one, said he’s actually a bit disappointed about not getting to face off with Puig.

“I really like playing against him,” he said. “He does a lot of stuff other guys in the league don’t do. It forces me to get better and I look forward to playing against guys like that. I’m a little bummed he’s not playing and can’t match up against him.”