The Seattle Sounders have plenty of games scheduled for the busy period following the World Cup break.
On Sunday afternoon the Sounders will be in action in Chester, Pennsylvania. The team will face the Philadelphia Union at their new soccer specific home.
The next MLS competition will be July 4 on the road against the Western Conference leaders, the Los Angeles Galaxy. On July 11 the Sounders will return home to entertain FC Dallas.
The Sounders then travel to face D.C. United at RFK Stadium July 15.
There is also plenty of activity outside the MLS. The Sounders are in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third round competition. U.S. Soccer has now bracketed Seattle and the Portland Timbers with the L.A. Galaxy and AC St. Louis in Division 2.
The Sounders and Timber will square off June 30 in Portland.
The Sounders FC-Portland winner advances to the quarterfinal round to meet the L.A. Galaxy-St. Louis winner on either July 6 (St. Louis) or July 7 (L.A. Galaxy).
On July 18 Seattle will host the internationally round Celtic FC in a highly anticipated friendly.
Also on the international front, the Sounders host Metapan of El Salvador June 28 as part of the CONCACAF competition.
The return leg is scheduled for August 3. The Sounders will travel to El Salvador for that match.
This is a demanding schedule. How does a team handle it? This question was put to Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid, who responded:
“Staying healthy is important. Managing training properly, making sure that you have recovery intermixed with the actual training times and then just a matter of doing a little bit of squad rotation. You have got to mix guys. Some guys seem to deal all right with playing game after game. They are able to take on that load. Some are different body compositions and for them, taking on a heavy, heavy load of games is not the best option. A lot of times it comes to individual decision so it’s not like, ‘Oh, Sigi must think this guy is a better player. He’s playing him all the time.’ It’s sometimes somebody just has the physical capacity to do it while the other guy maybe doesn’t. It takes management of your squad rotation and proper management of training.”
Opponents need to be confronted in order. With Philadelphia Union next on the Seattle schedule Schmid sized up the opposition:
“Obviously they are going to come into the game highly motivated. We have been able to meet Philadelphia twice under good circumstances for them. One, the first game of the year where they came to our place, which is difficult, but still it was their first game and nobody knew anything about them so they were a mystery to everybody. Now we play them in what should be their most emotional game of the year from a standpoint of opening up their stadium. So we have to be prepared. We have to be sharp at the very beginning. We cannot get caught up in the crowd with them, but we are used to big crowds so it makes it a little bit easier for us in that regard. And the other thing is how hot it is going to be. How much is humidity going to be there. So we have to deal with that factor as well because we really haven’t played any games yet this year in humidity. We’re training hard right now and we will ease off as the week goes on and be ready to go on Sunday.”
The question was put to Coach Schmid if Philadelphia Union has changed since when Seattle opened the season against the eastern team, to which he responded:
“They’ve been in every game. I think they have settled more on a system of play at this stage. They’ve got [Alejandro] Moreno and [Sebastien] Le Toux who have formed a partnership up front. So from that standpoint, they are evolving. They know what their back four is even though [Michael] Orozco won’t play against us because he got red carded but they have had a pretty standard back four. So they know some of the pieces to their puzzle at this stage and it’s a little bit easier to prepare for them as a result.”
The Sounders keenly anticipate the arrival of new player Blaise Nkufo after he finishes his World Cup competition with Switzerland. Schmid commented on Nkfuo’s World Cup play:
“I thought it was okay. When he was playing with [Alexander] Frei up there at the beginning of the game they had their regular partnership going although Chile is a very defensively active team so they made it difficult for Switzerland to really get into a rhythm. But then with the red card, it changes everything. Then Frei has to go wide, he’s up high on his own, they have to take Frei out. So it became a more difficult game for him as a result of that. Again, he did a good job of holding up the ball, allowing his team to connect off of him. A role of a player is different on every team and his role for them is a guy who’s going to hold up and put others into play and not necessarily be the guy who gets put into play at the end himself. But that’s something we expect more from him when he gets here.”
One scoring change has been made regarding the Sounders’ last game against D.C. United. James Riley had been credited with a goal along with Fredy Montero to spark the team’s comeback in the 3-2 loss.
The goal would have been Riley’s first in five years.
It has now been determined that the score was an own goal.