The Sounders have dealt with their share of absences this season, playing 29 different lineups in their 32 regular season MLS matches.
While the lineup on Sunday when they host FC Dallas may be similar to one they have previously fielded in 2012, the signature on the bottom of that lineup sheet will be different, as head coach Sigi Schmid will miss the match due to suspension, top assistant Brian Schmetzer taking his role as head coach for the match.
With Schmetzer at the helm, Schmid said he expects the Sounders to be able to proceed forward without missing a beat.
“Sometimes we have trouble deciphering whether great minds think alike or fools seldom differ,” Schmid said. “I think our thought processes are pretty similar. I’m very confident in his ability to get across the message to the team that he needs to get across to them.”
For Schmetzer, who coached the USL club to two league titles in his seven seasons as head coach, the adjustment to taking the lead chair on the bench is nothing new. He filled in for Schmid in a 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo in 2009 when Schmid was away at his son’s wedding.
In their nearly four years on the same staff, Schmid and Schmetzer have learned that they have similar coaching tendencies and even come to understandings when they differ in opinion.
“I know what he wants. I know what he’s all about,” Schmetzer said. “I don’t foresee any sort of issues.”
On the field, the Sounders will likely see the returns of Eddie Johnson, Adam Johansson and Mario Martinez from international duty and Steve Zakuani and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado from injuries.
Getting all those players back into the lineup will mean a more complete repertoire with which Schmetzer can face an FC Dallas team that is entrenched in battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Dallas will have their eyes on the Vancouver Whitecaps match with the Portland Timbers on Sunday, which kicks off two hours before the Seattle-Dallas meeting. A Vancouver win would eliminate Dallas from the postseason.
However, Schmetzer isn’t concerned about that result from the visitor’s perspective.
“Regardless of the result up in Vancouver, they’ll come to play. So we’ll have to make sure that our guys are ready,” Schmetzer said. “I’m actually more focused on our team than theirs.”
The Sounders will have their eyes on that match for another reason. A win or draw for Vancouver will give the Sounders the Cascadia Cup for the second straight season. If Portland wins, they will lift the trophy for the first time that all three clubs have competed for it.
As rewarding as it would be to earn their first trophy of the season, the Sounders are focused on building toward the playoffs with good results themselves.
Unbeaten in their last three matches, the Sounders have not allowed a goal in 330 minutes. However, on the other side of the ball, they have been shutout in two of their last three matches.
Facing FC Dallas on Fan Appreciation Night may be just what the Sounders need to find the scoring touch that got them three goals in the middle match of that series in a 3-0 win over the Timbers.
“It’s very good for us to get confidence. We know how good the support is for us and it’s going to be for the playoffs,” midfielder Mauro Rosales said. “All the team is very concentrated on finishing with good form and facing the playoffs the best we can.”
Added defender Jeff Parke, “It’s important that we set the tone and get in there and get the points that we need. It’s important that we take the playoff mentality into the next couple games and do the job and get the points and secure second place.”
Kickoff for Sunday’s match is scheduled for 6 pm Pacific with television coverage on ESPN and the local radio broadcast on 97.3 KIRO FM.