In May 2017, the Chicago Fire hosted the Seattle Sounders in a game that turned out to be a milestone for the home team's season, as they went on to win by a commanding 4-1 scoreline, in the first win of a run of eight wins in nine games and coming in an 11-game unbeaten run for the Men in Red.
The Fire had a resurgence that season after several moribund campaigns, but after a difficult 2018 campaign, the Sounders return to SeatGeek Stadium for the first time since that loss in 2017 on Saturday (1 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; TSN in Canada) and Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer is determined to make sure his team continues the hot start to their season in their first road foray.
"They're a good team. Anybody who has [Bastian] Schweinsteiger, [CJ] Sapong, [Nemanja] Nikolic, it's not a bad team," Schmetzer told reporters at training this week. "Now, why haven't they gelled, is it the new players, players they're still trying to get? Again, it's a long season. Two years ago they were very, very good and they had some of those same pieces. So for us it's going to be a tough contest."
Seattle are one of three teams to win their first two games this season. When asked about the Sounders facing less-than-top teams to kick off the season, Schmetzer paid credit to the opponents beaten and said the challenge for the staff was to keep the momentum going as the Sounders aim to win three straight to open a season for the first time since their expansion campaign in 2009.
"How do we keep this group motivated to get off to the best start that the Sounders have ever had? How do we erase the moniker of a slow-starting team? It'll be a combination of tomorrow will be a fitness day, and they're going to work," Schmetzer explained. "The messaging from the staff, today our film session it wasn't just, 'Ok, here's the great stuff.' It was, 'Ok, good, but can we improve here, what do we need to do over here to make sure we are preparing the squad for a tough road swing in Chicago?'"
And perhaps with a memory in mind of that 4-1 loss two years ago, Schmetzer credited the two strikers the Fire have these days and their ability to beat opponents in different styles, calling them "different beasts."
"Nikolic a couple years ago was a smooth finisher, everything he touched went into the goal. Sapong is not the same, he's more of a bruiser, good in the air -- that goal he scored at the end there from almost the 18-yard box. Two different players, they had them on the field at the same time their last game out, so we'll prepare for Chicago."