SEATTLE – Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer didn’t rationalize any of it at his postgame press conference.
Schmetzer’s Sounders were eliminated from the 2020 Concacaf Champions League in devastating fashion Thursday, losing a penalty kick shootout to Honduran side Club Olimpia at CenturyLink Field after the two-legged series finished level 4-4 on aggregate with both sides bagging two road goals apiece.
The second leg got off to an ominous start when Olimpia scored in just the fourth minute, but goals from Cristian Roldan and Joao Paulo had Seattle back in the driver’s seat all the way until the 86th minute when the visitors got a shocking equalizing golazo.
That sent the match to a shootout, which Seattle lost 4-2, bringing the Sounders’ 2020 CCL venture to a crushing end on their home turf.
After the game, Schmetzer didn’t want to hear about any of the potential explanations for it, whether it was a fitness disadvantage or the absence of some key contributors, including Nicolas Lodeiro, Gustav Svensson and Yeimar Gomez Andrade.
“It’s not that hard [regarding fitness],” Schmetzer said. “There’s a lot of work that went into this preseason [with CCL in mind] and it seems like it’s wasted. Now, that might help us in the regular season, who knows, but there was a lot of work that was done in both phases of camp down in California and certainly down in Mexico City that’s gone wasted. The guys worked hard.
“The coaches, we tried to give them the tactics, the plan and everything, so a lot of that hard work got wasted.”
It would have been a gut-wrenching way to go out for any team, but especially for this year’s Sounders. This was supposed to be the year they were going to make their run at becoming the first MLS side to ever win CCL. They got a relatively favorable draw. They have a loaded roster with stars in their prime. They got a pair of road goals in the first leg in San Pedro Sula.
It was all right there. Now, the Sounders find themselves as the only MLS team not advancing into the quarterfinals.
When the dust settles, goalkeeper Stefan Frei said the only thing that can be done is to try and use it as fuel for the upcoming league season, which starts Sunday (3 pm ET | ESPN, TSN5, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes) back at CenturyLink against Chicago Fire FC.
“I think you have to look at it as a wakeup call, try to learn from it and see what we did well,” Frei said. “I think we did some things well today, but obviously quite a few things we could do much, much better at. So, we have to utilize that and now put our energy and focus towards the season."
No one on the Seattle side was in much of a mood to reach for positive takeaways, but Frei did say not having to divide up the attention between league play and the international competition can at least allow the team to be singularly focused on racking up as many points as possible early in their MLS season.
It’s just about compartmentalizing the defeat, assessing what led to the defensive lapses that wound up defining the series, and applying the knowledge.
“We screwed up, [but] the silver lining is that we have a chance to give our full focus on to the season opener and the other games to come,” Frei said. “So it’s really important that we utilize that. It’s a missed opportunity for us today not advancing and not making a push in Concacaf, but let’s make a push for Supporters’ Shield and it starts on Sunday.”
Still, the sting from this one is likely to linger around Seattle for a while.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this.