‘Next man up’, a philosophy long adopted by the Seattle Sounders and Head Coach Brian Schmetzer, has never been more essential to the team’s success than now.
“It's a tradition that started a long time ago – certainly in the USL days,” said coach Schmetzer. “You witness some of those games, it was a good team – we had a bunch of good players that knew how to win games. Then that morphed when Sigi [Schmid] came here and I think we laid a pretty good foundation. Sigi added his abilities, his knowledge to this franchise.”
Sigi Schmid, the first Head Coach of Sounders FC's MLS era, joined the Rave Green in 2009 and the led the club to a 115-79-56 regular-season record, four U.S. Open Cup titles and the 2014 Supporters' Shield – undoubtedly establishing a culture of success.
In times of roster depletion, this motto has been a battle-tested tool for motivation and triumph for the Rave Green. In Seattle’s 2019 season campaign that led to their 2019 MLS Cup Championship, Schmetzer leaned upon ‘next man up’ as the team was missing ten First Team players to international callups.
“It’s a fact of life,” said Schmetzer in September 2019. “They aren’t here, so I need the next guy to step up and do his job to the best of his ability. That’s what makes good teams.”
Now, between seven players listed on the injury report and with captain Cristian Roldan away on national team duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Seattle (8-0-5 record) has not missed a beat. In their midweek match against Houston, Sounders set an MLS record for starting a season unbeaten in 13 matches – despite the influx of new, young faces to the first team and matchday roster age average of 24-years-old.
“It is always important to us to have a win when many players are not available,” said Seattle Sounders wingback Alex Roldan. “For example, my brother was not available and many other players are not available as well but we've had this mentality with many other players that are coming, even though they have not been spending time with the rest of the team.
“They have still been able to respond and give their best when they're playing so it was important for us to get that result even though we didn’t have a full team available.”
The Sounders now sit soundly at the top of the Supporters’ Shield race with a 10-day break in hand, earning some much-needed time to rest before their return to action on July 18 at Minnesota United (11 a.m. PT; ESPN, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM).