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Players take a turn devising end-of-game tactics

Sounders are trying out different methods to help players make better decisions.

Last Updated
3 min read

RENTON — Since returning from a four-day training break, the Seattle Sounders coaches have been emphasizing how the team closes out games. The Sounders have now dropped nine points this year from winning positions, which includes allowing stoppage-time goals that cost them wins in each of their past two home games. Even in the recent games they’ve won, the Sounders were a bit lucky to hold on after building multi-goal leads against the Philadelphia Union and St. Louis City.

Aside from simply preaching the need to do a better job at finding insurance goals or holding possession, coaches turned the tables a bit in Thursday’s training session. Rather than tell the players what they wanted them to do, the coaches had Albert Rusnák, Raúl Ruidíaz and João Paulo captain teams and devise for themselves how they would close out a match.

“I let them figure out their own tactics, let them solve their own problems,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “They needed to dictate what they wanted to do in games. We don’t have a joystick, we can’t call a timeout, baseball has innings. That was the exercise.”

BBQ tears

As frustrating as it’s been for the Sounders to drop points from winning positions, they aren’t particularly near the worst in that regard. Sporting KC — currently mired in a seven-game losing streak and winless in their past 10 — have dropped a whopping 17 points after taking the lead.

While 10 of those dropped points have come during Sporting’s current winless run, it’s perhaps even more concerning that they’ve only even led once during their last seven games.

Still, the Sounders have faced a desperate Sporting KC before, who was also on a 10-game winless run the last time these teams met. Sporting KC won that match 2-1.

“They’re going to come out flying we have to be prepared for that,” Jordan Morris said. “We can’t be surprised.”

No Pedro

Although Schmetzer didn’t come right out and say it, all signs point to Pedro de la Vega not making the trip to Kansas City. De la Vega has been a limited participant in training all week and Schmetzer reiterated that the Sounders are erring on the extreme side of caution in bringing him back from a series of hamstring injuries that have limited him to just three appearances and about 100 minutes of playing time this year.

During his weekly KJR appearance, Schmetzer even said that if de la Vega were to suffer another injury the Sounders might just shut him down for the season.

Schmetzer offered some clarity on that statement Thursday: “I was emphasizing the idea of needing to keep him healthy. The best example — I think it was 2017 — Jordan Morris did his hamstring really bad. It was a season-long thing; I may have played him 20 minutes in the final. That’s what we want to avoid with de la Vega. If we bring him back too early and he does his hamstring, there is a risk — not saying it will happen — but it’s a damaged hamstring and if you do it one more time … that’s what I was talking about.”

Thin in the back

Although Jon Bell and Nathan were able to participate in part of training for the first time since either centerback was injured, both are still at least another week away from returning to the field. Combined with the absences of Nouhou (Cameroon) and Stuart Hawkins (USA U19s), the Sounders are particularly thin on defense. In addition to giving Josh Atencio some reps at centerback earlier this week, the Sounders will call up 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Tino Lopez from Tacoma Defiance and sign him to a short-term contract.