TUKWILA, Wash. – As the Seattle Sounders prepare for their Western Conference showdown with the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field on Sunday (4 pm ET, ESPN, MLS LIVE in Canada), they find themselves fully entrenched in unfamiliar territory.
Already owners of a 6-12-2 record that has them in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, Seattle’s week started with Tuesday’s announcement that the club had mutually agreed to part ways with Sigi Schmid – the only head coach the team has ever known in its MLS era.
Schmid’s departure was followed by a SoccerWire.com report that, citing anonymous sources, claimed that multiple veterans had exited practice early in frustration in recent weeks and that star forward Clint Dempsey was potentially eyeing an exit.
If Seattle captain Brad Evans is to be believed, however, any speculation of discord in the locker room is just noise to be tuned out as the Sounders try to claw their way back into the playoff picture.
“Anytime a team’s losing, they’re going to try and point fingers,” Evans told reporters on Thursday at Starfire Soccer Complex. “The reality is, you’ve seen every single day guys come out here and bust their ass in training. There isn’t anybody here that’s taking breaks during training. “You guys can see that. Your cameras are out here just as much as your eyes are. Let’s trust your eyes and the cameras. What I’m saying is that this is a group that’s together. We’re ready to push for the playoffs.”
Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey painted a similarly upbeat picture when asked about his observations of how his club has trained this week.
“I thought [training] was happy. Guys were into it,” Lagerwey said. “Guys were buzzing around and there was just a spirit to it that I thought was infectious.
"You had a little more energy and dynamism. That’s so important now as we try and turn this around is to be positive, be together and understand that we’ve got a mountain to climb, but we can do this.”
For his part, Dempsey told ESPN’s Taylor Twellman in an interview at the MLS All-Star game this week that he still has his sights set on bringing an MLS Cup to Seattle and that he would like to retire as a Sounder.
In the meantime, Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer said that Dempsey made it through his 17 minutes in the All-Star Game injury-free and will rejoin the club for training on Saturday.