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Sounders using CCL disappointment as motivation for MLS Cup defense

Seattle Sounders
Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris heading in the game-winning goal against Chicago Fire | Photo by Seattle Sounders | March 1, 2020

The Seattle Sounders bowed out of the Concacaf Champions League in dramatic fashion on Thursday night in Seattle as CD Olimpia scored an equalizer in the 86th minute to send the tie to penalty kicks before winning 4-2.

Center-back Elvin Oliva scored just four minutes into the match for Olimpia but Seattle found an equalizer from Cristian Roldan in the 21st minute and took the lead in the 64th as Joao Paulo’s shot took a fortunate deflection and gave the hosts a 4-3 lead on aggregate.

Olimpia was resilient though and Carlos Pineda’s volley from about 30 yards outdrew the tie level and took the clubs to penalty kicks. Olimpia was a perfect four-for-four from the penalty spot while Roldan missed his attempt and Edrick Menjivar made a great save on Kelvin Leerdam’s shot to seal the upset for the Honduran champions.

Seattle Sounders
Seattle Sounders midfielder Danny Leyva battling against Chicago Fire defenders | Photo by Seattle Sounders | March 1, 2020

The massive disappointment of the loss was evident in coach Brian Schmetzer’s body language after the match. When asked how hard it was to prepare for this tournament when it’s the club’s first competitive matches of the season, he was dismissive of the idea saying,

“It’s not that hard. There’s a lot of work that went into this preseason and it seems wasted. That might help us in the regular season, who knows, but there was a lot of work that was done in both phases of camps down in California and then certainly down in Mexico City that got wasted. The guys worked hard; the coaches, we try to give them the tactics, the plan, everything, so all of that hard work got wasted.”

Schmetzer made it clear that this was a disappointment that the club would remember as the season would go on and that they would use this as motivation as they look to defend their 2019 MLS Cup.

Sunday’s comeback win at home against Chicago Fire FC was an important part of moving past the Champions League failures and re-establishing their mentality as a team that never quits and continues to fight for a win regardless of recent results.

Seattle Sounders
Jordan Morris of Seattle Sounders celebrating 1 of his 2 goals against the Chicago Fire | Photo by Seattle Sounders | March 1, 2020

Schmetzer didn’t feel like there was a mental hangover lingering on Sunday and he commended his players for finding a way to win even after conceding first.

“Yes I wanted them to start the game fast,” he said, “but the way they ended the game is consistent with what this team has been about for the last four seasons. They never quit.”

Jordan Morris came off the bench at halftime on Sunday to score both goals for Seattle, the winner coming in the third minute of stoppage time. Schmetzer said that Morris was frustrated to not get the start but that he turned that frustration into motivation to make the most of the chances he would get coming off the bench. Morris had a brilliant half and was awarded MLS Player of the Week as a result.

It still remains to be seen if Sounders will avoid the slow start to the season they have become known for in previous years but it’s clear that disappointment and frustration are not going to be emotions that hinder this team but instead push them towards success.

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