Plus: Marc Burch accuses Nicolas Lodeiro of flopping, and Brian Schmetzer is preparing a Thanksgiving feast.
Colorado Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni used colorful phrasing when asked how his team planned to overturn the 2-1 advantage the Sounders take into the second leg of their Western Conference finals series on Sunday in Commerce City.
“Bring them into altitude,” Mastroeni said, “and asphyxiate them in the 60th minute.”
On Wednesday morning at Starfire Sports, Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer responded with his own quip: Where was that home-field advantage when the Rapids finished near the bottom of the Western Conference in both 2014 and ’15?
“We don’t make anything of it,” Schmetzer said when asked about the altitude. “(Mastroeni) is trying to make something of it, just because it worked for him against L.A. (in the conference semis) and worked for him this year. But there have been a bunch of articles written. Where was the altitude last year or the year before?”
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For the Sounders’ South American contingent of Nicolas Lodeiro, Nelson Valdez and Alvaro Fernandez, playing roughly a mile above sea level is nothing. Lodeiro noted after Tuesday’s match that he’d played at altitude twice that high with the Uruguayan national team, and he was speaking literally.
Their respective countries — Paraguay for Valdez, Uruguay for both Lodeiro and Fernandez — regularly participate in qualifiers in La Paz, Bolivia (which sits nearly 12,000 feet above sea level) and Quito, Ecuador (9,350).
It’s all about mind over matter, Schmetzer insists, and points to “mountaineer” goalkeeping coach Tom Dutra as another example to follow.
“I mean, (Dutra) climbed Mount Rainier with skis on his back and skied down all in 10 hours or 12 hours,” Schmetzer said. “There’s less oxygen up there, but if you’re conditioned, if you’re a good athlete and you’re mentally strong, it’s there but it’s not something that’s a massive difference.”
– Current Rapids defender and former Sounder Marc Burch accused his opponents of “flopping” during Tuesday night’s first leg in Seattle. Burch was whistled for the foul that set up Lodeiro’s go-ahead penalty kick in the 61st minute, tripping up the Uruguayan by the ankle — who, it must be said, did make the most of the contact.
“It’s not a penalty,” Burch told the Denver Post afterward. “That’s pretty much it. I went close to Lodeiro and he fell down, that’s it. … I don’t think flopping in the box is something that’s called for. But that’s what he did.”
Schmetzer offered a rebuttal having watched the replay on Wednesday morning — though he did diplomatically add that he didn’t think Burch should receive any retroactive punishment for the “accidental” elbow that caught Lodeiro earlier in the match and resulted in a yellow card.
“It was absolutely a penalty,” Schmetzer said. “It was an absolute penalty because the ref called it, how about that? Personality, I thought it was a penalty and it was also a penalty because the ref called it. We live and die by those. I know what Marc … Marc’s a good guy. He’s emotional. It was an emotional decision. He’s allowed to have his opinion.”
– That the Sounders have the day off tomorrow is not a coincidence, per their head coach.
“It’s Thanksgiving,” Schmetzer said. “It’s a family holiday. It’s foreign maybe to some of the guys from different cultures, but it’s Thanksgiving. It’s time to be with family.”
It sounds as though there will be quite the feast at the Schmetzer household.
“I cook the bird,” Schmetzer said. “I cook the stuffing. I cook the gravy. (His wife) Kristine is very good with her mashed potatoes and desserts. It’s a shared household. I like it, though. I like to cook.”
– One more bit of glad holiday tidings for Sounders fans: According to ESPN stat researcher Paul Carr, Seattle is now the slight favorite to not only reach MLS Cup but win it all. Remember, if the Sounders top the Rapids and Montreal overcomes Toronto (the Impact won 3-2 at home on Tuesday and is also slightly favored in its conference finals), CenturyLink Field will host the championship game on Dec. 10.