The Seattle Sounders have endured a disappointing start to their 2022 Major League Soccer campaign, kicking off with two consecutive defeats and zero goals scored.
The current roster is riddled with injuries, with key Designated Players Raul Ruidiaz and Nico Lodeiro both out. Many assumed the Western Conference giants would suffer the similar misfortune in the Concacaf Champions League, but head coach Brian Schmetzer insisted otherwise.
“There's been a lot of talk about not winning in 11 games going back into last season, a bunch of stuff that was on various publications, sites, all of that. I still believe in this team,” declared head coach Brian Schmetzer.
His confidence translated onto the pitch, with his side securing a 3-0 victory over Liga MX side Club Leon in the first leg of their quarter final series. Veteran Fredy Montero scored twice in the first half to earn the early lead, before Jordan Morris managed a 90 minute goal to seal the triumph.
Leon didn’t go down without a fight, dominating 70 percent of possession. The Sounders, however, used that to their advantage, confining the Mexican side to circulate the ball across their backline and midfield before pouncing on errors.
“We know they like to play all the time from the goalkeeper, they play from the back, they like to play possession, and our team actually is a good transition team. And if you defend well and you press at the right moments, you create chances in transition.
“The challenge there is, against a good team like Leon, if you press and you don't win the ball, and they open you up, then they're in control of scoring opportunities. And so I think our players did a good job of recognizing when the right time to press and then in transition, I thought we were very good tonight,” explained Schmetzer.
Beyond the score and key statistics, Schmetzer hailed player Cristian Roldan for his impact on the squad amid their uneasy start to 2022. The coach pointed to Roldan’s 'never give up' attitude, and the impression it can leave on those around him.
“As far as Cristian is concerned, I know that he got good results on some of the data sites out there in the data-verse, metaverse, whatever you guys want to call it, but Cristian’s emotional ties to our success is what I prefer to look at. You can go on Sofascore, Fotmob, you guys can do all that. You guys can do all the data you want,” noted the coach.
“But his emotional leadership on the field – when he presses, how he presses, the energy and the desire, the commitment to his team, to himself, to the game, is what makes him a special player. Never gives up, whether it's the 1st minute, the 95th minute, 4th minute – that's his emotional contribution to the team. It’s far and away greater than any statistic that you guys can come up with.”
While Tuesday was merely the first of the two match series, the Sounders secured a solid position ahead of next week’s second leg in Guanajuato.