The Seattle Sounders are without arguably their three most important players in Jordan Morris, Nico Lodeiro and Stefan Frei due to injuries. But the train rolls on and the Rave Green are off to their best start in club history.
Seattle are the lone undefeated team remaining in MLS this season and sit atop the Supporters’ Shield standings with 21 points from nine matches.
The natural question is how? When other teams wilt when impactful players are sidelined, the Sounders have thrived.
Brian Schmetzer jumped on The Call Up Tuesday to explain the secret sauce a bit.
“Our mantra here in Seattle is to try and put the players in the best positions to succeed and also to build their confidence and their actual soccer acumen to be able to, on the field, make decisions on their own and problem solve on the field,” Schmetzer said. “Those are two big ideas I try to get across to all the players on the field. So far this year, it's worked.”
Schmetzer pointed toward the move of Nouhou from fullback to part of a three-center back setup, Brad Smith and Alex Roldan’s play out wide, as well as Will Bruin partnering with Raul Ruidiaz and Cristian Roldan's stellar play as the No. 10 for the injured Lodeiro in the Sounders’ new formation for 2021 as prime examples of that ethos working.
Not that there wasn't some trepidation in the early goings.
“There was a little bit of fear in the coaching staff in preseason because we worked really hard in preseason,” Schmetzer said. “We actually had a different preseason plan, we were going to do a more robust, physical, kind of heavier preseason, but we kind of changed gears after Jordan went down with his ACL and we fully committed to three center backs.”
With the tactical tinkering in the rear-view mirror, the Sounders opened the 2021 season with a 4-0 thumping of Minnesota United. And outside of a few dropped points at home from draws, they’ve not looked back since.
“Maybe that first game we lose, or who knows the first three games could have struggled,” Schmetzer said. “Maybe we would have been idiots for changing to three center backs, but knock on wood it’s worked for us.”