Arreaga BFT
Jane Gershovich

Built For This: New players on the roster inject energy into the squad

The Seattle Sounders are no stranger to achieving glory in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

After winning the 2016 MLS Cup, the Rave Green returned to the final once again. A host of players from those two squads – Nicolás Lodeiro, Stefan Frei, Joevin Jones, Nouhou, Román Torres, Kelvin Leerdam, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan, Harry Shipp, Gustav Svensson and Víctor Rodríguez – will lead the Sounders into the postseason in 2019.

For several players on the roster, this marks their first foray into the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. But their experience traversing this year’s difficult MLS campaign will serve them as they brace for the winner-takes-all nature of postseason matches.

“We had a lot of trials and tribulations this year,” Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said after training on Wednesday. “It wasn’t easy.”

Despite the lack of Audi MLS Cup Playoff experience for some of the players, Frei believes that the club’s recent form, as well as their No. 2 seed, will be a boon to the entire squad.

“Having a bit of confidence going into the playoffs will benefit you,” he added. “And then the other sure thing that will benefit you is having home field advantage. I think those are the givens.”

Two of Seattle’s midseason signings, midfielder Emanuel Cecchini and defender Xavier Arreaga, have not yet been exposed to the grueling nature of the postseason.

Cecchini, a box-to-box midfielder who can occupy a deeper role, has shown flashes of his potential in recent months, showcasing his impressive passing range.

After adjusting to a new country and new league, Arreaga has shown why the club rated him so highly, as his intelligent defending and surgical passing helped the Sounders pick up massive wins over the Portland Timbers, New York Red Bulls, LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes down the stretch.

While players like Cecchini and Arreaga haven’t gone through the gauntlet of a prolonged spell in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, that relative inexperience can be a positive. It enables them to approach each match with a bit of freedom, solely focusing on playing their games and injecting energy into the squad.

“I think you need to have a mix of both [veterans and young players],” said Frei. “The one that realizes what situation we find ourselves in, and you need to have the guy that has no clue about the situation we’re in, so he just keeps his cool and plays his football. A good mix of those on a team will get you far.”

For Schmetzer, the team’s objective is clear, even if not every player has been exposed to the rigors of postseason play.

“Our goal is MLS Cup,” he said. “It’s four games away.”