TUKWILA, Wash. – Coming off their dramatic 1-0 Knockout Round triumph over Sporting Kansas City at CenturyLink Field on Thursday, the Seattle Sounders now have their sights set on a very familiar foe as they move on to the Western Conference semifinals.
That would be Supporters Shield winners FC Dallas, who will head to CenturyLink for the first leg of the semifinal series on Sunday – a matchup that marks the third straight year the Sounders and FCD are primed for a postseason showdown.
The sides also met at Toyota Stadium in Texas just two weeks ago, a match that saw Dallas prevail 2-1 after the Sounders coughed up a 1-0 lead before conceding an 89th-minute game-winner to FCD’s Carlos Ruiz.
“That was a competitive game,” Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer said on Friday. “If we would have gone down there and got blown out and something bad would have happened, then there might be a little chink in our armor and in [the player’s] psyche a little bit. But through 80 minutes, we played well. We had a couple errors that cost us the game.
“But I think the team knows that we can play against Dallas.”
Schmetzer’s personal connections to FC Dallas actually extend beyond the recent on-field battles between the sides.
Seattle’s interim boss has a longtime acquaintance in FCD technical director Fernando Clavijo, who he played with when both were members of the Major Indoor Soccer League’s San Diego Sockers in the 1980s.
“We lived right next to each other,” Schmetzer said. “Every day we went and had a cup of coffee before training. We had some good times together. We won a lot of games and had a lot of barbecues out on our patios after training and stuff. He’s a really, really tremendous man.”
As he tries to prepare his team to best his friend-turned-nemesis, Schmetzer said figuring out how to jumpstart Seattle’s attack will be a focus ahead of Sunday’s match. Aside from their own dynamic attackers, FCD also has one of the league’s better center back tandems in Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman.
The Sounders will also again be without midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz, who Schmetzer ruled out on Friday as he continues to work his way back from a sprained knee.
“We’re talking about that,” Schmetzer said. “Our touches are down between Jordan [Morris] and [Nicolas] Lodeiro. We’re trying to figure that out. It’s noticeable. We’re working on it. Some of it is personnel. When you lose [Clint] Dempsey, Ivanschitz, Brad [Evans] coming on as a sub, you lose something. But the personnel that we have must step up.
“They know our system. They know our 4-2-3-1. Next guy up has to come up and do their job.”