One of the hardest aspects to Major League Soccer is managing your squad.
From the hectic schedule to the mammoth travel distances often involved in away trips, players can soon burn out and every roster slot starts to count.
Brian Schmetzer knows that better than most having run the gauntlet in the MLS Cup four times as Seattle Sounders head coach, winning two of them, as well as lifting the Concacaf Champions League earlier this year.
After playing four games during the second half of June, the Sounders traveled to Toronto on Saturday needing to call on every inch of their depth. Schmetzer brought a number of young players into the starting XI, and they more than proved themselves with a 2-0 win, kicked off by a goal from 22-year-old forward Dylan Teves – his first career start and goal in MLS play.
Fellow youngsters Jackson Ragen, Danny Leyva, and Leo Chu also got starts, while starlets Josh Atencio, Ethan Dobbelaere, and Reed Baker-Whiting all came off the bench.
“Look, when you throw young guys on, it can go really well for you, or sometimes they have bumps in the road and learning curves,” Schmetzer said after Saturday’s match. “I think this team is built, yes, on depth. The young players have to earn their minutes and if they’re good enough they’ll play – but the veteran players also have a hand in making them successful. That’s just part of the culture of this team.”
Goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland was also given a rare run-out, keeping a clean sheet in just his fourth appearance of the season. The 28-year-old showed no signs of rustiness, making six saves to keep Toronto out despite facing 1.06 xGOT.
Cleveland heaped praise on the culture within the Sounders organization, with continuity at every level and a focus on making sure players are given as many chances as possible to develop.
Another look 👀
A great assist from @leochu07 + a fantastic finish from @teves_dylan! pic.twitter.com/w8nxGF7lud
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) July 3, 2022
“That is something that the club does very, very well,” he said. “The coaches take a lot of time making sure guys get minutes, guys get in a rhythm and making sure that everybody feels a part of the club. There’s a very ingrained culture across the first team, Tacoma [Defiance, Seattle’s MLS NEXT Pro side], academy. Everybody knows everybody. Whenever we need somebody to step on the field, they’re comfortable.”
Seattle now have a much-needed week off before hosting arch-rivals the Portland Timbers on Saturday.
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