Ahead of the final two regular-season matches, Sounders FC has a bye from MLS action this weekend. Which means that, aside from Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans who are away with the U.S. National Team for a week, the players have three days off from training starting on Friday.
Head Coach Sigi Schmid has an idea of how he wants his players to spend those three days.
“Don’t sit on your couch and fall asleep for 72 hours,” he said with a laugh. “The important thing is you still do something, but get away from soccer for a little bit. Spend some time with family, take a weekend away, go for a walk, go for a hike, play some tennis – whatever you want to do. Just get your mind away from it.”
Having a bye this particular weekend could be viewed as unfortunate timing for the Sounders, who are unbeaten in their last six league matches after Sunday’s 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy. But considering the busy schedule they endured in the past couple months and the injuries that have piled on as of late, the short break from MLS action comes at an ideal time for the Rave Green.
Starting defenders Chad Marshall and Oniel Fisher are still recovering from the minor injuries they suffered in training last week. Designated Player Nelson Valdez, who hurt his calf during warmups of the LA game, was also limited in training on Tuesday. Several other members of the squad are coming off injury-filled summers, such as Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Osvaldo Alonso.
What’s more, Seattle’s core group of players is among the oldest in the league. On Sunday, just three members of the starting XI were under age 30.
“From that standpoint it always helps you, because you’ve always got some guys with little knocks,” Schmid said of the bye this weekend. “The idea is to work hard for these three days [before the break]. Certain guys are still trying to build their fitness, so it gives them an opportunity to do that.”
Against the Galaxy last weekend, Seattle closed out a stretch of four games in 16 days that included the group-clinching CONCACAF Champions League win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC. They now need a victory in just one of their final two matches – at Houston on Oct. 18 and home versus Real Salt Lake on Oct. 25 – to clinch a spot in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
This weekend’s bye allows the team to fuel up for those two remaining games.
“It’s just important to have right before the playoffs,” forward Chad Barrett said. “That little break – people can go home, see their families, hang out with friends or go anywhere – it’s so important to have that little mental break right before you go into a tough stretch of games.
“We’ve obviously left a lot of points on the table at different points during the season, so now all these games are must-wins for us. That’s the way we’re going to approach them.”