The Seattle Sounders return to action this weekend for the first time after a three-week break for a FIFA international window. The long layoff is nothing new for Seattle, and for every other MLS team, who last year competed in the most disjointed season in league history, an unprecedented campaign for myriad reasons.
A big concern for players on both teams will be trying to mitigate any rust after being away from competitive matches for so long in the middle of a season.
“For us, this break is convenient in some sense and inconvenient in others,” said Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer on Thursday. “I laid it out there to the team the other day because they weren’t sharp in training. I just said, ‘Look, you have to understand that you haven’t played a game in three weeks. There’s going to be some time in the game where you might not be as clean as you normally are. What that requires is a little more concentration.’”
The task for the Sounders now is to continue their hot start — they entered the break first in the Supporters’ Shield standings and unbeaten in their opening eight matches — away at an LA Galaxy team on Saturday (6 p.m. PT; JOEtv, Prime Video, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM) that will be hungry to avenge a 3-0 loss they suffered in Seattle on May 2.
“The first 10 to 15 minutes we have to be smart, not over-pressing, but also not defending too [deep],” said midfielder Cristian Roldan. “We can’t be trapped in our own half for too long. It’s going to be an extremely difficult game, and it’s a matter of showing quality, and that’s something that we lacked the last two games. That’s what I’m focused on, the quality in front of goal, and I think our team can do it.”
Schmetzer is also expecting LA manager Greg Vanney to tinker with his tactics and personnel from their first meeting this year. The Galaxy were largely outplayed at Lumen Field, and their star striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, who leads MLS in goals with seven in as many matches, left frustrated and off the score sheet.
“For sure [Vanney] is going to make adjustments,” said Schmetzer. “Not just because of the game [in Seattle], but because he’s got a couple of new shiny players. He’s figuring out his team. This is his first year with the club and he’s trying to rebuild things. I’m totally preparing for a different look, a different feel as to how they play.”
The Sounders’ last two matches heading into the break left a sour taste in their mouths. They conceded a late equalizer on a penalty kick against Atlanta United before being unable to find the back of the net in a scoreless draw with MLS newcomers Austin FC. Schmetzer is confident, though, that the team has learned from those two contests and will come out firing in the first of a massive three-match week against Western Conference opponents.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” said Roldan. “I believe our team is playing well, although we haven’t had our best results the last two games. We have the ability to go out there and get a win…The important thing is that if we can get a good result and start off the week right, we’ll be flying with confidence.”