Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer opened up about the 2021 season as current leaders of the Western Conference, praising his players for going against complacency.
The Sounders have managed to maintain momentum despite an MLS campaign plagued by several severe injuries and fierce opponents.
The Washington-based team lost star playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro to a knee injury early on in the season, while winger Jordan Morris has struggled to recover from a torn ACL he picked up on loan with Swansea City.
But despite forced roster modifications, the Sounders have kept Sporting Kansas City and the Colorado Rapids at bay going into the final weeks of the season. Schmetzer is now making sure that no one takes that for granted.
"If you get there early then sometimes you worry about complacency in your team, about you've made it in the playoffs and kind of let your foot off the gas," Schmetzer said. "It's different every year for sure, but we're just going to keep it going. Every game's important, every game's a playoff game. Sporting Kansas City and Colorado are nipping at our heels. We want to be first in the West."
"We're in first place, I think we've demonstrated fairly well pretty much all year. You have to know Jordan Morris, Stef Frei wasn't here for an extended period of time. Missing depth players like Jordy Delem and other guys along the way, we've come through a lot of adversity this year and we still managed to keep on top.
On top of a successful Major League Soccer run, the Seattle Sounders made it to the final of the international Leagues Cup tournament, narrowly losing out to Club Leon by one goal.
"I think this team has shown, we talk about the Leagues Cup performance by our team – Tigres spends $80 million on payroll, they've got an expensive team. Santos is near the top, Leon is near the top, we showed we could play with all of them," Schmetzer added. "This team has performed well against quality opposition, minus Jordan, minus Nico, minus Stef, minus Delem – it's shown we can do it."
The Sounders host the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday, where a win or a draw would officially qualify them to the MLS Cup playoffs.