Brian Schmetzer is confident his Seattle Sounders team have the character to keep themselves above the playoff line in the Western Conference.
The Sounders beat FC Dallas 1-0 in midweek to climb to seventh, but there is little time to recover ahead of Saturday’s trip to Atlanta United.
Atlanta are four points outside the postseason places in the East yet have similarly lofty ambitions.
With the season heading towards the home stretch, coach Schmetzer – with Gonzalo Pineda, his former player, now his opposite number – believes Seattle have the right attitude to succeed.
It was only a chaotic start to the season as the Sounders won the CONCACAF Champions League that left the team with an uphill battle.
“They are not resting on the laurels of CCL,” Schmetzer said. “They want to play well, they want to play better and see how far we can get.
“It’s all about the character in that room. That’s the only thing I can say. Those guys want to win, I can’t say it any simpler: those guys want to win.”
Seattle were the first MLS team to win CONCACAF’s premier club competition in the Champions League era, although several had previously come close.
Real Salt Lake, the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Los Angeles FC were all beaten finalists, while next opponents Atlanta lost in the quarter-finals in three consecutive seasons.
Although the Sounders have been boosted by their continental success, midfielder Albert Rusnak suggests it has also brought added pressure at a key time in the season.
“After we won the CONCACAF Champions League, we became a target for every MLS team,” he said. “We became a target every week.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Atlanta United – Thiago Almada
Atlanta failed to score last time out against the Chicago Fire despite having both Ronaldo Cisneros and Josef Martinez in their line-up. It will fall to Almada to ensure that exciting duo continue to get chances, as the goals will surely follow soon enough.
Seattle Sounders – Nicolas Lodeiro
Seattle need wins right now, no matter how they get them; their past two have come courtesy of Lodeiro penalties. The Sounders’ hugely influential captain will continue to have a key role to play as the end of the season nears.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Three of the four meetings between Atlanta and Seattle in MLS play have ended in draws, including the lone meeting in the past three years, a 1–1 draw at Lumen Field in May 2021. Seattle won the other meeting, a 2–1 home victory in July 2019.
– After a strong start with three wins in their first five matches this season (D1 L1), Atlanta have managed to win just three of their past 17 league games (D6 L8). Only one of those wins, a 2–1 victory over RSL, has come in their last eight games (D3 L4).
– The Sounders head back on the road where they have lost three games in a row. Seattle have seven road defeats this season, only three teams have more, although just one of those losses was by more than a one-goal margin (0–2 at Dallas in May).
– Matheus Rossetto has become a reliable anchor in midfield for Atlanta. Only Marcelino Moreno (22) has played more MLS games for Atlanta than Rossetto (19) this season, while Rossetto ranks third in MLS in passing accuracy (min. 900 mins), completing 91.8 per cent.
– Lodeiro scored the Sounders’ lone goal from the penalty spot in their win against Dallas on Tuesday. Lodeiro has scored a penalty in each of Seattle’s last two wins and is now a perfect 18–for–18 from the spot in regular season MLS play, the best 100 per cent record on penalties in league history.