Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer: "Average week" drives us to be better

PORTLAND – Through 85 minutes of their 100th all-time meeting with the Portland Timbers at Providence Park on Sunday, it looked like the Seattle Sounders were on their way to riding a new tactical look to a second straight positive result.

After riding a never-before-used 5-4-1 formation to a massive 2-1 road victory over Toronto FC on Wednesday, the Sounders trotted out the look again for Sunday’s rivalry clash at Providence Park. While they couldn’t manage to poach any goals like they did against the Reds, Seattle found themselves just minutes away from a 0-0 draw that wouldn’t have been glamorous, but certainly would have represented a hard-earned road point.

Instead, the dam finally broke late as Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco slotted home a late game-winner past Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, giving the hosts the 1-0 victory.

“It’s interesting because when you play [the 5-4-1], it’s difficult to support the forward up top,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said the game. “We demand a lot of the lone striker and at times that was [injured striker] Will [Bruin] and [today] it was Clint [Dempsey]. It’s a demanding formation in terms of the output but tactically, yes, we needed to support Clint a little bit more and grab a little bit more possession.

“But that comes with playing it a little bit more, we haven’t practiced it too much. Now two games, we could have had two good results with it. Now we look at ourselves saying, ‘What is this formation about? What are we going to do?’”

It was a deflating ending for Seattle coming off the high of the Toronto victory, which felt like the type season-changing result the team had been searching for working its way through an uneven start to the season.

All told, the Sounders managed to take four points from a marathon week that saw them play three games in nine days, but Blanco’s goal ensured that the team will have a bitter taste in its mouth going into a bye week before their next match at home against Real Salt Lake on May 26.

For his part, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said he was pleased with how the 5-4-1 played as far as it making it difficult on opponents to break down his defense.

“We were tough to beat,” Schmetzer said. “Whether we’re five at the back, four at the back, the last stretch of games, I’ll go back to Sporting KC [a 2-2 draw on April 15], the team has a pulse, a life, they can sense it. They know. We weren’t played off the park.”

However, the Sounders’ boss also echoed Roldan’s sentiment, saying that his hope is that the defeat will add some fuel to his team’s fire as they train over the break.

“Our week was a draw, a win and a loss. That’s an average week,” Schmetzer said. “We don’t want to be average. We want to be a championship caliber team. So it actually drives us to be better. That’s what it does.