For the first time in their last five Major League Soccer home matches, the Seattle Sounders came away victorious. Buoyed by a brilliant strike from João Paulo in the 22nd minute, the Rave Green defeated Minnesota United 1-0 on Saturday to get back on track at Lumen Field.
The club wasn’t thrilled with its recent performances in front of its own fans (a resounding 3-0 Leagues Cup Quarterfinals win over Liga MX’s Tigres aside) and confronted those nagging problems head on.
“We brought out in the open our home form,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “We addressed it…If you don’t address issues that come up, you can’t solve them. If you try and shove them under the rug or push them out of the way, then you’re not learning, you’re not growing as an individual, as a group, as a team or an organization.
“MLS is weird, it’s hard,” he continued. “There’s things that we don’t control. For us to have a blip, a little bit of a dip in form at home. I don’t have the answers, but what I do know is that group of players in there is committed for every single game.”
The Sounders employed a fairly rotated roster on Saturday — five nominal starters were either out or on the bench out after coming back from international duty — a tactic made possible by the solid amount of the depth they have now that nearly all their players are healthy again. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei made his first start since May 12 when he injured his knee and then dealt with subsequent blood clots, while defender Nouhou played for the first time since May 30 while recovering from an adductor injury. The pair helped Seattle keep a clean sheet, its ninth of the season.
“Pride comes into play,” said Frei. “We pride ourselves on having a good squad as a whole.”
Added João Paulo: “It’s important to have a full roster and all the players really [contribute]. You cannot think that you can get far and to the playoffs playing with just 11. We need to be a prepared team playing with 18, 20, and we’ve demonstrated that, probably even with more players, especially with some of the young players who are just showing up now.”
The Sounders will now have to quickly turn their attention to a Leagues Cup Semifinals match against Santos Laguna at Lumen Field on Tuesday night (7 p.m. PT; ESPN2, Univision | TICKETS). Because of the rotation on Saturday, Seattle will likely have the fresh legs of Raúl Ruidíaz, Xavier Arreaga and Cristian Roldan available. Ruidíaz and Arreaga arrived late from international duty and were unavailable for the match against the Loons, while Roldan came on as a substitute at the hour mark.
Schmetzer trusts, though, that whoever he throws out on Tuesday will get the job done in a contest that is as massive to MLS as it is to the Sounders.
“I’m going to see who’s available, see who recovers, and like I said that every game is important, we’re going to try and win that game,” said Schmetzer. “That is an important game for the club. Santos Laguna is already here in Seattle. They flew after their game in Tijuana. They’re already here. They’re taking it very seriously. We are taking this game very seriously.
“We are going to be ready for Tuesday.”