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Schmetzer Opts for Diverse, Young Lineup in Seattle Loss to LAFC

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Editorial (March 5, 2018) – Seattle Sounders FC had the toughest task of the MLS opening weekend. Why? They were up against a team that nobody has ever seen on an MLS pitch before.

Schmetzer Opts for Diverse, Young Lineup in Seattle Loss to LAFC

Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer knew that and told his players to be aware of the adrenaline going through each player for Los Angeles FC, the newest MLS expansion club to make their league debut.

“We knew that this was their first game and that they were going to come out, play and be lively,” Schmetzer said, during his post-game press conference. “If you talked about the emotions of the game, we had told our guys to be ready for that. We wanted our guys to use the crowd and I think our guys felt that. The fans were doing their part.”

Schmetzer kept his lineup simple but sprinkled in a few surprises. He kept forward Clint Dempsey out the match, due to his participation in the Sounders’ 4-0 CONCACAF Champions League win against Santa Tecla FC on March 1. Also taking a seat against LAFC were Chad Marshall and Jordan McCrary.

Instead, Schmetzer filled in the spots with Will Bruin at the top as a lone striker, with Harry Shipp, Nicolás Lodeiro, and Henry Wingo right behind him.

Schmetzer opted for a younger, but diverse, starting lineup, especially on defense. Tony Alfaro, Nouhou Tolo, and Jordy Delem were the young defenders joining veteran, 31-year-old centerback Román Torres.

The idea of a young defense provided an attacking spark early, but fell through when another young player, LAFC’s Diego Rossi of Uruguay found the back of Stefan Frei’s net in the 11th minute.

The offense never fully rebounded after the Rossi goal, but the defense was able to help Frei deny any other opportunities from the new club. In total, LAFC took five shots throughout the match.

Seattle found an attacking presence late in the game, coming out of the second half sprinting down toward LAFC goalkeeper — and former Seattle goalkeeper — Tyler Miller. Miller was forced to make seven saves and the Sounders totaled 22 shots.

“There were a ton of chances created,” Schmetzer said. “I wouldn’t say it was from a lack of execution. There were some unlucky bounces. Our sport is brutal at times.”

Schmetzer said that his side never gave up and that they were “goal-dangerous” in the second half, despite a late red card shown to Alfaro on defense in the 83′ minute.

“We had a man sent off and they continued to press forward,” Schmetzer said. “They continued to press to get the final goal. There was never any second that I — or the fans — didn’t see the effort they put into the game.”

Opposite of Schmetzer, LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley agreed that Seattle pressed hard against his side.

“It’s a great win,” Bradley said. “The first 25 minutes the football was actually pretty good. After that it was more about fighting and defending.”

Schmetzer also praised the efforts of 18-year-old midfielder Handwalla Bwana, who hit the crossbar on his second touch. He entered the match in the 64th minute for Shipp.

“Hitting the crossbar on your second touch isn’t a bad thing,” Schmetzer said. “But I wish it would’ve gone in. He probably wishes it would have gone in. It would’ve continued to add momentum and build steam. But you guys got a taste of what he brings, not just his youthful enthusiasm but his little bit of quality that he has. He scored some good goals for us in preseason. He was good.”

The Sounders will look for that youthful spark when they host C.D. Guadalajara at CenturyLink Field at 7 p.m. PT Wednesday.

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