To get everyone ready for Atlanta United’s Sunday matchup against the Seattle Sounders, we spoke with Sounder at Heart’s Dave Clark to get his take on their yearly resurgence, Brian Schmetzer, and Raul Ruidiaz.
DSS: Seattle is currently 10th in the West and 10 points behind the final playoff spot, so is this the point in the season where they make a crazy run on their way to the MLS Cup?
SAH: It’s happened each of the past two seasons. If they do it again and the whole league has to mimic it, why not?
Things do feel different this year. Seattle is essentially as bad as they were in 2016. The expectations may have been higher than any point in Sounders history. They started the season as the Western Conference favorites and were expected to challenge for the Supporters’ Shield with a respected squad, if old. Injuries smacked them around and so did their mental failures as they started the season with red cards in their first three matches. As the losses mounted, head coach Brian Schmetzer grew more and more conservative in playing style, attempting to grind out 1-1 draws or 1-0 wins. Instead, those tended to be 1-0 losses with a couple 0-0 draws thrown in for good measure.
Now they are again nearly fully healthy, with the new Designated Player joining them. If there is going to be a run, it has to continue with at least a draw against the best team in the league, in their building, on national TV. The 2-2-2 record in the last six isn’t good enough, but a three-match road swing with five points would be massive. Somehow, stealing a win to get seven in three would be a declaration that it is summer in Seattle again, again.
DSS: How are fans reacting to Brian Schmetzer at this point?
SAH: The #SchmetzerOut movement is growing. It may start because of high expectations and earned by high performances. He’s weak to average tactically on offense, leans heavily on a defensive structure that has dominated for two years now, but is an extraordinary motivator and a winner.
There are leagues where finishing first and second two years in a row would insulate a coach and general manager for at least a year. As this season continues to advance, my previous thoughts that MLS was one of those are fading away. If there’s no run this summer, one or both of Schmetzer and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey probably go.
DSS: What are the odds Seattle’s newest signing Raul Ruidiaz plays on Sunday?
SAH: They’re really good. We know he’s in Atlanta. We also know he’s both fit and rested since he was at the World Cup but hardly played. The chances are low that he starts. He will have practiced only two days with the Sounders. The first was the day they announced him, prior to him flying back to Morelia and Peru. The second is Saturday. Seattle’s attack needs the boost however, and a guy that’s scored 20 goals each of the last two years in Mexico should play.