Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer says there was some 'testiness' and 'feeling each other out' when his team played Atlanta United FC in an exhibition game last month in Charleston. The teams meet again Friday at CenturyLink Field.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer was just wrapping up his media scrum following Thursday’s workout in Tukwila when I asked him about his team’s mindset heading into Friday’s game against Atlanta United FC. We’ve all heard the comparisons to the high-spending, Arthur Blank-owned expansion franchise doing things first-rate, much as the Sounders did in 2009 in trying to establish a toehold here.
But I wanted to get into things more at field level. The Sounders and Atlanta played an exhibition game last month in Charleston, SC in which United nearly blew Schmetzer’s team off the field in the first half. Thing is, Atlanta started a regular season lineup in that game against a Sounders unit of trialists, reservists and USL players.
The Sounders finally sent their starters out in the second half and quickly halved a 4-0 deficit before eventually taking a 4-2 defeat in a game that devolved into some chippy play at times with Osvaldo Alonso and the usual mixer-uppers throwing their weight around aggressively. In fact, the Sounders nearly popped a few more goals the final 20 minutes and seemed intent on proving something to the United squad that had pushed their subs around early.
Players tend to remember those sorts of things more so than focusing on what teams are spending on payroll. So, I asked Schmetzer flat-out: Any lingering grudges his players might carry into this one?
Most Read Sports Stories
- Huskies and Cougars GameCenter: Live updates, highlights, how to watch UW-WSU Apple Cup
- Washington State snaps seven-game Apple Cup losing streak with 40-13 drubbing of UW
- Instant analysis: Three impressions from WSU's 40-13 rout of UW in the Apple Cup
- Given the chaos that enveloped the Huskies all season, this Apple Cup blowout was the only logical conclusion
- Mariners acquire All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier from the Padres
“When our guys came in in the second half, there was a little testiness to the game,” Schmetzer said. “That’s what we all saw.”
Schmetzer suggested it wasn’t as much about the first half blowout as the starting players on both sides “feeling each other out” knowing they’d meet again five weeks down the road.
“It will carry over for those guys,” Schmetzer said of what his veterans got out of that second half. “For Ozzie and those guys, they remember that.”
It was already shaping up as an interesting contest, given how Atlanta has outscored opponents by a combined 10-1 its past two games. Now, perhaps a little extra flavor will be injected.
Schmetzer expects to have his full crew of international play returnees in the game at some point, either as starters or off the bench. He did hint that the one exception could be Jordan Morris, who returned early from U.S. Men’s National Team play after his bad ankle prevented him from seeing any action.
Schmetzer noted that striker Will Bruin and some other players went the distance in last weekend’s “friendly” against Club Necaxa with the intent of having them ready in case returning national team members couldn’t play.
“If I need to start Will Bruin — coaches choice — instead of Jordan (Morris) because we don’t want to injure him long term for the rest of the season with a dodgy ankle, Will’s ready to play 90 minutes,” Schmetzer said.
But the rest — Clint Dempsey, Joevin Jones, Roman Torres and Nicolas Lodeiro — are all getting in Friday’s game. Schmetzer said he places a lot of stock in what veterans tell him about their readiness, which is why he’ll ride Dempsey’s latest goal-scoring streak as far as it takes him regardless of the 180 minutes he’s played in less than a week.
Dempsey had four goals in his two USMNT games, leaving him just one behind Landon Donovan for the most internationally by a U.S. player.
“I listen to the players,” Schmetzer said. “I listen to them because we do the Omega Wave, we do the testing, and all that sort of stuff. But it’s still communication. I trust the senior players, they know their bodies, they’ve been around the block for a long time. I put a lot of weight into what they tell me.”