Brian Schmetzer's postseason coaching record is fairly unassailable.
He's a two-time MLS Cup champion in four seasons with the Seattle Sounders. He made it to the final in one of the two years they didn't lift the trophy, and was only eliminated from the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs after penalty kicks in 2018.
It's a fairly remarkable tournament run for a fairly remarkable tournament team (though it must be noted their furthest run at the US Open Cup in the last four seasons was the quarterfinals, one time.)
The Sounders begin another tournament run tonight at the MLS is Back Tournament against the San Jose Earthquakes (9 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN, TVAS). And they know all other clubs have sights locked on them.
"I still feel like there's a target on our back because we're the previous champions and rightfully so, I think," Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan told reporters on a video conference call this week.
It all starts in Group B against the Quakes, with games against Chicago Fire FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps to follow. Seattle are the favorites to top the group, but it's wide open behind them. That suits Quakes head coach Matias Almeyda well, as tournaments are events he's made his name on, too.
Almeyda guided Chivas to the 2018 Concacaf Champions League title, breaking the hearts of New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC in the process. He won the 2017 Liga MX Clausura (after a knockout round) as well as the Copa MX twice. He used his unique and combative total man-marking system along the way.
It's one of the most entertaining facets of the Quakes and normally one of the most consistent things about them under Almeyda, but this month's circumstances may not allow for it at full throttle. The heat and humidity in Orlando is always a challenge, while San Jose haven't played a competitive match for four months. To boot, the Quakes were one of the last teams to start full team training before the tournament.
Will the legs be there? Midfielder Jackson Yueill admits some tweaks may have to happen.
“With the heat, and going into these games where no one has played a full 90 for three and a half months, I think we’ll have to change some of the tactics," Yueill told MLSsoccer.com a few weeks ago. "We don’t want to get away from our style and stay true to ourselves, but we have to recognize the outside circumstances and environment we’re in. Some things will be a little different, but we’ll stay as true to ourselves as possible.”
Seattle vs. San Jose will be a clash of style and form, with the latter stumbling out of the gate to start 2020 way back in March. Perhaps a tournament is just what this team needs to get back on track.