Seattle Sounders goal celebration

Brian Schmetzer has seen the storylines, the ones where the Seattle Sounders were supposed to take a step back in 2021.

But the head coach isn’t buying them, he stressed several times in his postgame press conference after a 1-0 win at the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday evening. With that result, Seattle stayed atop the Western Conference standings and overall league table through five matches (4W-0L-1D record).

“What I would say is a lot of people have written this team off,” Schmetzer said. “Some people don't think this team is good enough to win a championship. I disagree, I disagree completely and we’re going to keep going, we’re going to keep fighting. And if that gave us an indicator of how proud those guys are, I think we’ve got a good chance.”

It wasn’t just that Seattle got a road result – they’ve done that plenty of times while making four of the last five MLS Cups and winning two (2016, ‘19). It was that they overcame considerable adversity and squad rotation, even needing to put right wingback Alex Roldan at goalkeeper for stoppage time.

Roldan made three saves when longtime starter Stefan Frei went down with an apparent knee injury, thrust into the role because Seattle had already used their three maximum substitute windows. Frei’s injury was Seattle’s second of the game, with midfielder/defender Jordy Delem going down inside 10 minutes and getting replaced by center back Shane O’Neill.

One step further, Seattle entered the midweek match without Nicolas Lodeiro as their Uruguayan playmaker nursed right knee pain. Of course, they’re still without Best XI-caliber winger Jordan Morris as he recovers from his second ACL tear in three years.

“The guys are ready to play,” Schmetzer said. “Whether it’s a young kid, whether it’s an older veteran guy, like I said, a lot of people might write us off. Whether it’s a midweek game they don’t think we can win or regular season, Jordan Morris’ injury, people don’t think we can win – we’ll just prove them wrong.”

Schmetzer definitely brought some bite, confident in his team’s abilities despite changes from 2020 to 2021. And they’ve shown increased tactical flexibility, using different variations of a three center-back system that’s fueled a rise in Cristian Roldan’s form. Against San Jose, the midfielder scored the lone goal in the 18th minute, a scorching left-footed volley from range.

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Now, Seattle head into their second early-season matchup against LAFC. They already earned a 1-1 draw at Banc of California Stadium in Week 2, and this go-around welcome Bob Bradley’s team to Lumen Field on Sunday (9:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes).

“MLS is a hard league, it’s not easy,” Schmetzer said. “But the team is going to continue.

"What I would say ... is if you saw the spirit of the team in that game and the amount of energy and effort the guys put into it after Delem’s injury, Shane O’Neill comes on with not much warmup, does a great job, and then you see the fight in the team as the game’s winding down and you see Alex Roldan being brave and making plays and the team rallying around Stef, this team’s not done. We’ll get the next man up and we’ll keep moving and we’ll keep fighting.”

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