General manager Garth Lagerwey has talked repeatedly about wanting to perform well in CCL, dating back to when the club first hired him in 2015. Head coach Brian Schmetzer has echoed the sentiment as well during Seattle’s 2018 preseason.
So, it should come as no surprise that the Sounders fielded a rotated lineup in their 1-0 season-opening defeat against LAFC at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, with an eye towards their upcoming CCL quarterfinal home fixture against Chivas Guadalajara of Liga MX on Wednesday (10 pm ET | UDN, go90.com).
“There were some choices with rest,” Schmetzer explained after the defeat to LA. “There were some choices with injury concerns. Those are the reasons why.”
The result was a starting XI that didn’t feature stalwarts like Clint Dempsey and Chad Marshall. Defensive midfielder Jordy Delem drew the start at right back while youngsters like Tony Alfaro, Henry Wingo and Handwalla Bwana all also saw heavy minutes. Despite a flurry of chances, the group that took the field couldn’t quite overcome LAFC forward Diego Rossi’s 11th-minute tally that would hold as the game-winner.
Schmetzer said that he and his coaching did consider putting Dempsey in the 18 on Sunday and potentially using him as a second-half substitute. But with Wednesday’s quarterfinal match against Chivas looming, he ultimately decided against it.
“There was some discussion but we decided against that,” Schmetzer said. “That’s one of those choices I have to wear. Could he have come on as a late sub? Maybe. We’re trying to limit his minutes early on, we’re trying to make sure he’s ready for Wednesday.”
It certainly wasn’t an ideal start to the 2018 MLS regular season for the Sounders, with the defeat just the second loss they’ve sustained in the friendly confines of CenturyLink under Schmetzer since he took over halfway through 2016.
But given the fixture congestion that his squad is currently dealing with, as well as the injuries to a few of his key depth pieces, Schmetzer said he’s not ready to call Sunday’s defeat a sign that Seattle is going to fall prey to the type of slow start in MLS play that has plagued them the last two seasons.
“I think it’s too early – after one game in the middle of this fixture congestion, plus the injuries we’re dealing with right now – I think it’s a little early for that assessment,” he said. “I certainly have that in the back of my mind, the coaches, the trainers, the medical staff, we all need to make sure guys are healthy, ready to go after a short offseason.
“So, ask me that question after a few more league matches and then I’ll be able to better answer it.”