The Seattle Sounders know how important a deep roster is. With MLS's unique scheduling and travel complexities, having multiple options at every position and the ability to develop your own players is a crucial aspect of success in this league.
Head coach Brian Schmetzer made six changes to the side that lost 2-1 to CF Montréal midweek, betting heavily on a mix of youth and veterans, and a matchday squad that included plenty of players developed in Seattle's pipeline.
"Look, when you throw young guys on, it can go really well for you, or sometimes they have bumps in the road and learning curves," said Schmetzer after the match. "I think this team is built, yes, on depth. The young players have to earn their minutes and if they're good enough they'll play – but the veteran players also have a hand in making them successful. That's just part of the culture of this team."
Schmetzer pointed to the mix of youth and veterans on the field, handing Toronto just their second shutout loss at BMO Field this season. Fredy Montero, the club's all-time leading scorer, was paired up front next to Leo Chu and Dylan Teves – the latter a 22-year-old homegrown rookie who broke the deadlock in the 39th minute with his first MLS goal in his first MLS start.
Veteran talisman Nico Lodeiro, who provided a stunning assist for Montero's goal on the hour mark that sealed the result for Seattle, helped guide 19-year-old Danny Leyva in midfield. In defense, Yeimar and Nouhou played on either side of rookie Jackson Ragen. That's an intentional part of the Sounders' culture.
"That is something that the club does very, very well," said goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland. "The coaches take a lot of time making sure guys get minutes, guys get in a rhythm, and making sure that everybody feels a part of the club. There's a very ingrained culture across the first team, Tacoma [Defiance, Seattle's MLS NEXT Pro side], academy. Everybody knows everybody. Whenever we need somebody to step on the field, they're comfortable."
That depth has been tested heavily this season. Winning the 2022 Concacaf Champions League forced Seattle to rotate considerably in MLS play to start the season, a move that earned them a trophy, but tested the mettle of their squad. They've also dealt with an almost unfair share of injuries: João Paulo, Xavier Arriaga, Raúl Ruidíaz, Will Bruin and Obed Vargas are all sidelined, while several others have missed time throughout the season.
The ability to rest players before a crucial rivalry match against Portland Timbers at Lumen Field next Saturday is vital (4:30 pm ET | FOX, FOX Deportes).
"The players here tonight are in a very good mood," said Schmetzer. "After a loss at home, to come all the way across the country and play against a team that has big ambitions and a great coach, to come out with a clean sheet and two goals, was very impressive and the right moment for this group to lead into the Portland match."