The Sounders are back on the road and coach Brian Schmetzer is expecting a win when the club plays Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
“We need to win the game for Freddy Juarez,” Schmetzer said this week of his new assistant, who stepped down in August as head coach of RSL. “If we don’t win the game then I’m going to fire Freddy because he didn’t give me the good information about his former team. Come on, we should have a good scouting report there.”
Juarez joined RSL in 2010 as an academy coach and worked his way up to managing the first team. The New Mexico native said he took advantage of Schmetzer losing two members of his technical staff to positions elsewhere to work under a successful coach.
Multiple reports also state Juarez’s contract would expire at the end of the season and he wasn’t guaranteed a renewal for 2022. RSL was in playoff contention at the time of Juarez’s departure. He accumulated an 18-14-23 overall record with the first team, including one playoff appearance.
Pablo Mastroeni was promoted to be RSL’s interim head coach. The club is 2-2-0 in his young tenure but ridding a five-match unbeaten streak at their Rio Tinto Stadium.
Seattle hasn’t won at the facility since 2011. The Sounders are a league-best 7-1-2 on the road this season.
“It was interesting getting the changes,” Schmetzer said Friday of the RSL scouting report. Mastroeni has played with five defenders along the back line in some matches. “We have our ace in the hole (Juarez) but then Pablo has changed a few things up. So, we’ll see what they bring.”
Sounders midfielder Kelyn Rowe is also linked to RSL, having played five games, including the postseason, in 2019. Seattle executives Garth Lagerwey and Craig Waibel both were once Real Salt Lake general managers.
The links add to an already intriguing match for Seattle (13-4-6), which is second in MLS Western Conference standings.
Saturday’s game is part of a 12-day stretch where the Rave Green will play four matches — two for the single-elimination League’s Cup tournament.
Seattle defeated Santos Laguna 1-0 in the semifinals at Lumen Field on Tuesday. The Sounders face Liga MX side Club Leon for the championship in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Players and the club’s social media team have already plastered the internet with memes and excitement of vying for the first trophy of the season. But the Sounders need to be mindful of their MLS matches because of the close race for the top slot in the West that grants a first-round bye in the playoffs and home-field advantage.
“It’s amazing to be involved in a final,” Sounders wingback Brad Smith said Friday of Leagues Cup. “(But) we’ve got to focus on one game at a time.”
NOTE: Sounders defensive midfielder Jordy Delem (ACL) returned to partial training after suffering his knee injury in May. … Sounders midfielder Nico Lodeiro (knee) may not play as a precautionary measure. “We’ve got to make sure he’s ready for the long haul,” Schmetzer said.