This week’s headlines may seem daunting.
A club and national legend retires. A winning streak on the line that could set a league record for consecutive wins. A home match against a top team that has four straight shutouts.
But for Head Coach Brian Schmetzer, this week is no different than any other. On Friday, he called it the “ol’ stupid, coach’s one-game-a-time mantra.” It defines Schmetzer’s coaching philosophy and the way he approaches each match.
So even when Clint Dempsey announces his retirement on a Wednesday morning, the team remains focused on Saturday's match (1:00 p.m. PT; UniMás, Twitter, JOEtv, TICKETS).
“It was world news,” Schmetzer said. “Clint is an exceptional player, exceptional personality and a big part of this franchise’s history now. Yes, it was a big announcement. The challenge has been to make sure they are focused on the next match. I think we have accomplished that.”
It’s been business as usual ever since.
“[We are] just making sure that on the day our guys are right,” Schmetzer said. “They are doing what they are supposed to be doing. They are physically prepared and, obviously, they are mentally prepared.”
On Saturday, the Sounders, who are currently riding a club-record seven-match winning streak and are just one victory shy of setting the league record, host Sporting Kansas City. Sporting, just one point shy of FC Dallas for first place in the Western Conference, have recorded four consecutive shutout wins.
The match features the top two defenses in the West, and these matchups have historically been low-scoring, but both offenses are reeling: Sporting KC has three straight multi-goal games and the Sounders have scored at least two goals in five straight home matches.
“It’s going to be tough,” defender Chad Marshall told media earlier this week. “They are ahead of us in the standings… They are difficult to break down and they always play us tough here. It’s going to be a battle. We’ll have to be sharpest and come out and get three points for the home crowd.”
If all goes according to plan, the Sounders would become the first team in the post-shootout era to win eight straight MLS matches. A win would also leapfrog Portland in the standings, giving the Sounders 41 points and a share of fourth place with Real Salt Lake.
“[It is] great what we have accomplished up to this point, but they are understand that we are not in the playoffs yet,” Schmetzer said. “There is still a ways to go. We’ve got some tough days ahead of us, starting with Saturday.”