Before the Seattle Sounders beat LAFC in Round One of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs last Tuesday, head coach Brian Schmetzer drilled home an important point: Even though the defending champions were hosting as the No. 2 seed, that didn’t guarantee they’d extend their season another week.
“If there was one message that I pounded into them prior to kickoff, it was the fact that there were a lot of upsets in MLS and anything can happen, starting with that Orlando game,” Schmetzer said, referencing Orlando’s seven-round penalty-kick shootout victory over New York City FC. “There’s some pretty great, tremendous, interesting, fun games to watch. So we didn’t want to be on the losing end of any of those games.”
Highlights: Seattle Sounders 3, LAFC 1
The result leaves Seattle as a top remaining team, both because of history and their résumé in 2020. Schmetzer knows that buzz exists and tries to take a steady approach when digesting what headlines his team receives.
“I do read it. I try and make sure that I measure the commentary by who it is, when it is, how it is, who we’re playing against,” Schmetzer said. “There's a lot of things that I go and process through when I read what people put out there. But it certainly is of interest to me to make sure that the team doesn’t get carried away with their own press. That’s something that I always, we as a staff, always try to make sure they don’t get too high and too low.”
Seattle’s accustomed to this territory, rattling off 12 straight appearances in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs since entering MLS as an expansion side in 2009. They won MLS Cup in 2016 and 2019, plus advanced to the 2017 final.
Should Seattle follow a similar path, they'd make it four trips to MLS Cup in the last five years. They’ll have to navigate past No. 6-seeded FC Dallas at Lumen Field and then possibly travel for a Western Conference Final, but they’re only two games away from having another trophy on the line.
“You need good players, you need good fans, you need good ownership, you need good organization,” Schmetzer said. “We have a lot of things going for us here. You need good assistant coaches, they do a great job. It requires a lot of work, but it’s something that I’m very proud of that this franchise has been successful."
The Sounders are brimming with confidence, too. With much of their 2019 team back, they know what it takes this time of year.
“We have a long way to go, but we certainly are confident that we can win a few more games,” Schmetzer said.