Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer has told his side to maintain their focus as they look to secure first place in the Western Conference.
The Sounders picked up their fourth consecutive win on Saturday, beating Cascadia Cup rivals Vancouver Whitecaps 4-1 at Lumen Field. Goals from Shane O'Neill, Nicolas Benezet, Will Bruin and Leo Chu did the damage on the night, making Seattle the first side in the West to clinch a playoff birth.
Schmetzer has rewarded his side with two days off to rest and recover ahead of their trip to the Houston Dynamo next weekend, but has urged his players to recover quickly "physically and emotionally" as Seattle seek to extend their five-point gap over Sporting Kansas City at the top of the West.
“I gave them two days off,” Schmetzer told reporters (via the Seattle Times). “I hope they use that wisely, and they recover physically and they recover emotionally. But we’re going to go back to work because the season is not over. We want to finish in first place.”
Though he didn't find the net, Fredy Montero grabbed two assists against his former club, setting up Bruin and Chu's second-half strikes. The Colombian forward now has seven direct goal involvements in as many appearances against the Whitecaps, and he remains unbeaten during that time.
After the match, Montero said he felt "blessed" to be a part of this Sounders side thanks to the high standards set around the club.
“I feel blessed to be here because nobody talks about making the playoffs, we are always thinking about defending that first seed - first place,” he revealed of the Sounders' winning mentality.
“Seattle Sounders fans deserve a team that’s always looking to win. We showed no less than that this year. We’re close to finalizing that job. And hopefully, in the games to come, we get more victories and (will) be in first place.”
While they top the West, the Sounders remain eight points adrift of Supporters' Shield leaders New England Revolution, though they do have a game in hand.