Brian Schmetzer won't let Dempsey red card "derail what we can accomplish"

SEATTLE – When the Seattle Sounders get their MLS Cup title defense underway in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, they’ll do so without their leading goal-scorer.

Star forward Clint Dempsey was issued a straight red card for violent conduct in the 24th minute of Seattle’s 3-0 Decision Day presented by AT&T blowout of the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, meaning the 34-year-old US international will be suspended for Seattle’s postseason opener.

Dempsey was issued the straight red following a video review by referee Chris Penso, who determined that Dempsey’s contact with the face of Colorado defender Mike da Fonte qualified as violent conduct.

“I will reserve judgment until I see the replay,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the match. “Obviously I want the team to play with control of their emotions. That is a paramount. Because in critical moments, you need to have a clear mind and you need to make sure you’re making good plays. So I will watch the tape, I will sit down with Clint [Dempsey] and figure out his version of it and we will proceed.

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“Because I’m not allowing one play to derail what we can accomplish. That won’t happen. That I can guarantee you.”

The ejection ultimately didn’t harm the Sounders on Sunday, as Will Bruin and Nicolas Lodeiro combined for three goals en route to the 3-0 result. Seattle also benefitted from a second-half red card to Colorado’s Axel Sjoberg that leveled the playing field.

But playing the away leg of the Western Conference semis without Dempsey certainly makes things more difficult for the Sounders, who are already hurting for depth with a score of injuries to key contributors ahead of the playoffs.

Sans Dempsey, Bruin would seem to be the most obvious candidate for shouldering an increased role in Seattle’s attack. The longtime MLS veteran bagged his 11th goal of the season with his tally against Colorado and has been Seattle’s most reliable source of production from the No. 9 position for virtually all of 2017.

“I think [Bruin] has been pretty consistent all year long,” Schmetzer said. “I don’t know if he’s rounding into form or whatever. I think the goals he’s scored are a testament to who he is. He’s a battler, he’s a fighter, he gets in and makes runs inside the box really well. I’m just pleased he’s scoring some timely goals.”

The Sounders’ attack also seems to jelling at the right time following an inconsistent regular season. New Spanish winger Victor Rodriguez missed Sunday’s match with a quad strain but has fared well in his time on the field for the Sounders. Second-year forward Jordan Morris, meanwhile, is also afforded some extra time to recover from his hamstring strain now that the Sounders officially clinched a first-round bye with the victory over the Rapids.

“I think [the attack] is clicking pretty well right now,” Bruin said. “Everybody knows their roles and where they need to be and that’s very important tactically on how we’re going to attack. The goals will take care of themselves."