The stage is set … and now we wait.
The Seattle Sounders returned to training on Monday afternoon at Starfire Sports, the team’s first session since securing a spot in the Western Conference Championship last Thursday. On Sunday, the Rave Green learned their opponent will be the Houston Dynamo, who upset top-seeded Portland in a 2-1 aggregate win.
“When [Darren] Mattocks went out with the concussion, that was a blow to Portland,” Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Give credit to Houston. They did what they needed to do. We’ll prepare and make sure that our team is ready for a battle.”
In these preparations, though, time won’t be an issue. The team will likely have over a dozen official practices before the first leg of the conference final on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston (7 p.m. PT; FS1, FOX Deportes, KIRO 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360 AM).
With this in mind, the Sounders have made sure each player has a plan that is crafted for his respective success. For example, veteran players have a personal training plan that intermixes weights and training, similar to the players battling injuries. Meanwhile, guys who haven’t gotten as many minutes are expected to get a bump of training time.
On Monday, for example, Clint Dempsey, wasn’t on the pitch, while Jordan Morris, still working toward full health, participated in a team drill before working out individually on the far side of the field. Meanwhile, Gustav Svensson, Nicolás Lodeiro, Nouhou and Román Torres were all out of the country on international duty ahead of this weekend’s FIFA window.
“It’s challenging, but each guy has a personal plan,” Schmetzer said. “It’s a work week. They get paid, they will do the work.”
Every seven days, Schmetzer aims to create an inter-squad match, including a few S2 players, to simulate game action.
“The momentum is going, and then it stops,” forward Will Bruin said of the long gap between postseason rounds. “Guys are excited to get going, but we have to temper it back a bit.”
The upcoming series draws a particularly interesting storyline for Bruin, who began his productive MLS career with the Dynamo before being traded to Seattle in December.
“It’s going to be exciting for me on a personal level,” Bruin said. “I spent my first six years in Houston and now I am playing against them. It’s going to be fun.”
The Sounders have never won on the road at the Dynamo, a drought which includes a 2-1 season-opening loss on March 4.
“I thought I had them prepared for the first week of the year, but obviously that didn’t work out for us,” Schmetzer said. “We’ll have to do a better job of getting that right.”
Tickets are now available for the home leg of the series, which will be Thursday, Nov. 30, at CenturyLink Field (7:30 p.m. PT; ESPN, ESPN Deportes, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360 AM).