With consecutive wins against Western Conference opponents in their back pocket, the Seattle Sounders returned to training at Starfire Sports this week ahead of tricky road match against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
“The guys that are here feel pretty good,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer on Wednesday. “They’re still basking in the glow of two important wins. They’re in good moods.”
Originally scheduled for Week 7, the match had to be postponed due to inclement weather in Colorado. As a result, the Sounders will venture to Denver this weekend missing ten First Team players, who are unavailable due international call-ups.
One of the cornerstones of Schmetzer’s coaching philosophy is his ‘next man up’ principle, meaning every player on the squad must be ready to take advantage of every opportunity to when they step on the pitch. Yes, the team will be missing some key contributors, but that’s a reality of the modern game.
“It’s a fact of life,” added Schmetzer. “They aren’t here, so I need the next guy to step up and do his job to the best of his ability. That’s what makes good teams.
“I think historically, this franchise – the players from top to bottom – have done a good job of stepping in as needed. Injuries, international call-ups all that sort of stuff. I think overall, we’ve had a pretty good history of guys stepping up.”
Sounders midfielder Harry Shipp, who has five goals and three assists in just over 1,200 minutes this season, stressed the importance of setting the rhythm of the road match through intelligent possession.
“For us, the big thing is doing a better job of keeping possession,” said Shipp on Thursday. “We were able to win the last couple of games, but there were times where we could’ve established tempo a little bit more. Especially on the road in altitude, you’re going to have to control some of the game.”
Coping with missing key players is nothing new for the Sounders in 2019, as the Copa América and Concacaf Gold Cup meant that numerous players were away with their national teams for lengthy period. During these spells, players like Danny Leyva, Handwalla Bwana and Justin Dhillon garnered valuable MLS experience, which should smooth the transition this weekend.
Added Shipp: “You’ve got guys that are going to have to play [this weekend] that got experience earlier in the year playing, which is a lot better than having to go out for your first or second time late in the year. We’re going in there expecting to win the game, even on the road.”
Despite the roster rotation, the Sounders will hope to maintain their status as the second-place team in the Western Conference with three points against the Rapids (JOEtv, YouTube TV, 1090 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM).