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Brian Schmetzer: ‘Senior players need to get us out of this’

Sounders head coach had some tough questions to answer following another frustrating loss.

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3 min read
Kayla Mehring / Sounder at Heart

RENTON — In a season in which the latest gut-punch result always seems to be just around the corner, the Seattle Sounders’ 2-1 loss to Sporting KC on Saturday still stands out. It wasn’t so much the loss itself, as the way it happened – with the Sounders scoring first, only to give the lead away almost immediately; take some level of control of the match back, only to pick up an unnecessary red card; and then to concede the game-winner in the 85th minute on a shot Stefan Frei would probably be expected to save about 99 times out of 100.

That it also came against a team that was riding a 10-game winless run, was on a seven-game losing streak and had not won at home in nearly three months only added to the frustration.

With a few days to sit on the result and having had a chance to go back through the film, head coach Brian Schmetzer had some tough questions to answer.

When asked about the decision to let Reed Baker-Whiting play with a yellow card, head coach Brian Schmetzer admitted he could have “helped out” his young fullback by removing him around the 70th minute when there was an injury stoppage. That’s also when Peter Vermes inserted Alenis Vargas, who drew a second yellow on Baker-Whiting almost as soon as the ball went back into play.

“Hindsight is always 20/20,” Schmetzer said. “I thought Reed was having a good game. The narrative switches if he gets down to the end line one more time, goes around a couple of defenders and we score. The narrative is it’s great you kept him on. On reflection, I could have helped the kid, sure.”

Schmetzer was a bit less willing to second-guess himself about his overall subbing patterns, even suggesting that he’d have let his starters go even longer if it hadn’t been for the red card.

“My belief is the senior players need to get us out of this,” he said. “Guys need to make plays, starting with goalkeeper all the way through. In my mind, I was going to keep it tight. I was going to let the guys who were the best 11 go as long as they could. The red card changed it.”

One of those veterans Schmetzer implied he’d continue to rely on is Stefan Frei, who allowed two relatively soft goals.

Frei is one of the winningest goalkeepers in MLS history, having won two MLS Cups, the Concacaf Champions League, one U.S. Open Cup, one Supporters’ Shield and three Canadian Championships. But Frei is also having his worst season in terms of post-shot xG, ranking 39th in MLS at -.7. In the six previous seasons for which that stat is available, Frei has never posted a negative number.

“There’s a lot of people killing Stef,” Schmetzer said. “But Stef is the first one after the game to say ‘That’s on me.’ He’s won a shit-pile of games. Is he perfect? No. Am I perfect? No. We’re all going to make mistakes. How are we going to react to those mistakes? That will be the challenging part. Can we get back up? Can Stef make some saves? Can I pick the right lineups, the right subs? Those will be the questions.”

At least for now, those lineups will still include Frei.

“He’s earned another chance,” Schmetzer said. “If it’s a run of a couple of bad games, then sure. It’s the same thing for field players. There might be some changes on Saturday. Might be some changes on Wednesday. We’ll have to see.

“We’re talking about different formations, we’re talking about different things, we’re talking about different personnel. We’re at that point in the season. We’re kicking off the second half [of the season]. If we can’t get it right, I get it. We’re going to have to change something.”

Schmetzer even acknowledged that if things continue like this, he may need to be one of the changes.

“My marker is always if the team quits on me,” he said. “If the team quits on me in a game, I’d raise my hand. The tactical stuff, the white noise, I think that’s a fair statement. you can have that conversation. I still have confidence in myself. I have confidence in this team. I have confidence in my assistants. I think our team is better than our record, and I truly believe that. If it comes to that point, I get it, it’s pro sports.”