TUKWILA, Wash. – Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer has heard all the chatter.
Coming off their 1-0 road defeat to LAFC on Sunday, the Sounders are currently mired in a 1-4-1 start to their MLS season that leaves them in last place in the Western Conference through six matches. There have been some extenuating circumstances, to be sure, whether it was juggling their early season league schedule with the Concacaf Champions League, or a rash of injuries and red cards that have left Seattle playing at considerably less than full strength.
Even so, a fair amount of hand-wringing from Seattle’s ever-passionate fanbase has ensued, mostly regarding some much-discussed comments made by general manager Garth Lagerwey on the Sounders’ future spending relative to their big-market peers in MLS. (Lagerwey later walked back those comments somewhat.)
Speaking with reporters at Seattle’s training session at Starfire Sports Complex on Wednesday, Schmetzer expressed frustration at the notion that the players or the franchise are resting on their laurels.
“I’m a little irritated at times when people get fired up about this club not wanting to compete, or they can’t compete, or what Garth said or didn’t say or what people heard or didn’t hear,” Schmetzer said. “I need to tell everybody that the players on that field, they haven’t quit on the fans. They haven’t quit. They busted their [butt] in LA. And the fans that were there in LA tried to do what they could to make the atmosphere great. That relationship is still there.
“Those players have not quit on the fans and I don’t think the fans have quit on us,” he continued. “We’re also going to be realistic and say we can accept some of the responsibility if the results don’t go. I get it. We’re in a results-based business. If I don’t do my job I’ll get fired. I get it. But as long as I’m here you can bet your [butt] that any player that’s going to quit or woe is me or say, ‘oh this is hard’ – they won’t be with this team for very long, because we’re going to continue to work and push and do whatever it takes to win games. That’s the bottom line.”
Lagerwey said on Wednesday that, while the team evaluated options for a new signing during the primary transfer window, he decided to wait until the summer, when the club will make a significant “eight-figure investment” on a new Designated Player.
That means the Sounders roster as currently constructed will have to keep the attack afloat until then, a reality Schmetzer says doesn’t intimidate his players as they continue to adjust to life without forward Jordan Morris. (The US international was lost for the season with a torn ACL in CCL play).
“We are not afraid to compete against New York, LA two times, Atlanta – we’re not afraid of that,” Schmetzer said. “We’ve been to two MLS Cup finals. And our goal is still to make another one. Would we like to be at home? Yes. Have some results not gone our way? Of course. We’re looking to fix that.
"So, it’s a little irritating and challenging that, you know, [stuff] has happened,” he added. “We’ve had some traumatic injuries. We’re working through that. Those guys are busting their [butts], the coaching staff has been working their [butts] off trying to find solutions and we’re going to push forward. I want top push forward from all this mess because I already told you: As long as I’m here, this team’s never going to quit. Simple as that.”