Orlando, Florida — Kelvin Leerdam is confident in his team, the Seattle Sounders. While Seattle’s start to the MLS is Back Tournament hasn’t been what the team pictured, he’s confident the team can advance to the knockout rounds. Leerdam’s been on this team for a while. He has a reason to be confident.
On a media call on Friday, Leerdam and Brian Schmetzer addressed the history of the Seattle Sounders slow starts. Last year, Schmetzer thought the team was changing that narrative.
However, at the MLS is Back Tournament, the Sounders have picked up one draw against San Jose and a stunning loss to the Chicago Fire. Against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday, it’s do or die — for both teams.
Vancouver dropped points in a must-win match against San Jose. After leading the entire match, San Jose flipped the script in the second half, winning 4-3. Seattle, as mentioned, has a draw and a loss. Vancouver has only played one game, equaling a loss.
Leerdam said that the match is important. Of course, it’s a rivalry match between two Cascadia teams, too. Leerdam mentioned Vancouver’s roster turnover this past off-season, bringing in plenty of new weapons.
“I’ve seen some good stuff from the Whitecaps, like finishing some chances,” Leerdam said on Friday. “They play as compact as possible… If you have the ball most the game game, of course, some cracks, especially in this heat, will be there. San Jose used that opportunity to score goals.”
“We just have to try to get out strong. Hopefully we can end the game by halftime.”
The last time we played Vancouver, Kelvin called game! 🙌#SEAvVAN | #MLSisBack pic.twitter.com/POM56LkiRU
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) July 18, 2020
Schmetzer: Situation is “Not Good.”
Seattle was highly favored heading into the tournament. Of course, the Sounders won the MLS Cup last season against Toronto FC. And, the team has its own history with up-and-down performances. Consistency has been an issue before with the Sounders.
Schmetzer called the match “desperate” for the Sounders.
“We’re desperate for points,” Schmetzer said. “If we lose, we go home, and Vancouver falls in the same trap. So, you’ve got Cascadia rivals not playing in the Pacific Northwest, but the implications are very high.”
The Sounders have spent plenty of time looking at the defense, especially with miscues from Xavier Arreaga in the last match. However, Schmetzer remained confident in the Ecuadorian center back, saying that he will start against Vancouver.
“I have full confidence in Xavi,” Schmetzer said.
Meanwhile, Leerdam said that communication is getting better with the defense. Arreaga speaks Spanish, along with fellow CB Yeimar Gómez Andrade. On the left side, Nouhou has been anchoring that position at left back.
“When you have a normal preseason, I could work with the guy in front of me, next to me.” Leerdam explained. “I need to learn to communicate to Yeimar next to me. It’s not easy when you have that short of time to figure it out, defensively and offensively. We’re getting better, though. Talent will always rise. I’m very confident that’s what’s going to happen.”
Schmetzer: Leerdam’s leadership is showing
Leerdam has become a leader on the Sounders defense. With the addition of Yeimar to the XI, that makes Leerdam the only defender from last year’s starting XI in the championship match to return this season.
Nouhou has filled in for now-departed Brad Smith. Yeimar has taken the place of South Korean international and former Sounders center back Kim Kee-hee. Arreaga was with the team, but didn’t start the championship. He’s filling in for now Inter Miami defender Roman Torres.
Needless to say, the backline for Seattle has gone through changes. Leerdam’s consistency with the team, and being a starter, has been valuable for the Sounders.
“Kelvin knows how Nico [Lodeiro] plays, how Cristian [Roldan] plays and how Stefan [Frei] likes to play,” Schmetzer said. “That’s always handy to have. Leadership takes many different forms. He’s soft spoken at times, but he’s very smart tactically. A lot of his leadership is by actions on the field. He’s not going to be the guy pointing fingers and ‘ra-ra’ in the locker room He’s astute in his play.”
“And he’s been a tremendous attribute for our club.”
Kelvin is ready for Sunday's must-win game. 😤#SEAvVAN | #MLSisBack pic.twitter.com/EqRzXbwI13
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) July 17, 2020
All or nothing for the Seattle Sounders
It’s win or go home for the Sounders. A draw could help, but it wouldn’t be a huge boost. Seattle could end up in second place, too, with a win. However, they would need some help from the Earthquakes and Vancouver, in a later match.
There’s a lot of movement in Group B. Right now, San Jose looks to be finishing on top. However, with a tight race by all four teams, it’s hard to finalize standings until the very end.
For Seattle, though, the task is simple: win.
Seattle has won many matches before. In fact, Schmetzer believes that his team performs best when they are under pressure.
“One of the best things about the Seattle Sounders, is that we always have found ways to win games in critical moments,” Schmetzer said. “It’s been a little bit of a stigma with us that we start slow and we end fast… These are these moments you have to deal with.”
“Are we always going to be successful? No. But we give ourselves a fighting chance and we don’t shy away from responsibility. We’ve laid it out there for [the players]. They know. They know what the game plan is and what changes we need to make.”
What’s next for the Sounders?
It all comes down to today’s match against the Whitecaps. Tune in tonight at 10:30 p.m. EST/7:30 p.m. PT for the match, on Fox Sports 1.
Meanwhile, before the Sounders match, the Chicago Fire and San Jose Earthquakes will kick off at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PT on FS1.