TORONTO — Seattle Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer approached the podium inside BMO Field on Saturday evening in the same stoic and collected demeanor that he did nearly a year ago to the day. He answered questions honestly, candidly and heartfelt, taking time to ponder each question while he scribbled reporters’ names onto a sheet of paper in front of him.
Unlike last year’s win over Toronto FC, though, the Sounders fell 2-0 to TFC in a rematch of MLS Cup 2016. While the result did not go their way, Schmetzer was gracious in defeat and objective in his analysis of the match.
The Sounders had been fantastic in the Duels Won category all season, a stat that Schmetzer is extremely proud of and believes is a good indicator of how his team performed. On Saturday, TFC outdueled Seattle 58-24.
“Normally our team is very good in that department,” Schmetzer said. “What I would say there is [Toronto] came out in the first half very fired up, we knew they would be, and then we get through halftime, and we think we get a little break, a little reprieve, but they came out in the second half and again won more duels in the second half as well.”
Toronto FC enjoyed the lion’s share of opportunities as well, partially due to the Sounders’ inability to keep possession in the midfield, something that had been clicking so well entering MLS Cup. Schmetzer put his best attacking lineup on the field, starting winger Víctor Rodríguez over fullback Nouhou, but acknowledged that the team’s usual patience wasn’t there.
“Our attacking movements had been good, but today we had too many easy balls given away, too many easy passes given away,” he said. “When you don’t have any rhythm to your game, you don’t create a ton of chances…What I told them in the locker room was that their effort was there, but unfortunately today our soccer wasn’t our best soccer.”
Even with Saturday’s result, the Sounders have enjoyed rousing success under Schmetzer since he took over last summer. When he was appointed interim manager, the Sounders had 12 losses on the season. Heading into MLS Cup 2017, Seattle had lost just 12 times in the 58 matches since.
Schmetzer’s next challenge will be to use this year’s loss as motivation for next season, not unlike what TFC just accomplished.
“Can we go out and compile a few more wins and host an MLS Cup final in front of our Settle fans?” Schmetzer posited. “It’s very, very challenging in MLS to win away from home. Toronto did a good job defending their home turf. Certainly during the course of this franchise, I’m positive that we will get an opportunity to have an MLS Cup in Seattle, and that will be our goal for next season.”
The 2017 campaign may not have ended the way the Sounders wanted, but there are still plenty of positives and cherished memories to carry them through the offseason before writing another chapter in this club’s history books.
“It’s very difficult to repeat and to come back to MLS Cup twice in a row, so I’m obviously very proud of that fact,” Schmetzer said. “It stings right now, I’m not happy, they’re not happy in the locker room, but upon reflection over the course of the years, you’ll say that the season was successful in many, many ways, it’s just that we were short of our ultimate goal.
“We will reflect, I will reflect on the job that I can do, the players need to have some reflection as well, they need some time off, it’s been a long year,” he continued. “And we will get back up on the horse and try and do it better next year.”