After all the pregame, raise-the-championship pageantry subsides Sunday — oh, yeah, the Seattle Sounders have to worry about a high-caliber opponent in their home opener.
One that holds an MLS-record eight-game road unbeaten streak during the regular season, dating to 2016.
And the Eastern Conference-leading New York Red Bulls (2-0) bring to town arguably the best goal-scoring striker in the league in Bradley Wright-Phillips, whose 24 regular-season goals led the MLS in 2016.
“They are dangerous on the counter(attack), especially with the way they play and their ability to press a lot,” Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “(Midfielder) Felipe adds another guy into the attacking third (of the field), so they send a lot of guys forward.
“We have to be aware of the spaces they leave because they press so high.”
Once again, the Sounders (0-1-1) are shuffling their defense around after learning that center back Roman Torres was suspended for one game for his first-half conduct in a 2-2 tie at Montreal last weekend.
Torres intentionally kicked Ambroise Oyongo near the top of Seattle’s penalty box in the 37th minute — an action that Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said he dealt with this week.
“I’ve corrected that with Ramon,” Schmetzer said. “It won’t happen again.”
With Torres out, Seattle can go one of a couple ways with its defensive starting lineup Sunday.
The expected adjustment will be moving Gustav Svensson over to the middle next to Chad Marshall from right back, and starting Oniel Fisher on the right side.
Svensson struggled outside against the Impact as Ignacio Piatti scored two goals — in the 17th and 51st minutes.
“They kind of overloaded their left side and Gustav was on a little bit of an island on his own,” Schmetzer said. “His performance in that game I take some responsibility for (not getting him help).”
At the same time, Schmetzer praised Fisher’s 31-minute run off the bench in the second half that changed the team’s momentum for the Sounders, who trailed 2-0.
“(Fisher) was a little bit more dynamic up the right flank than Gustav was,” Schmetzer said. “As you can see, he is a young kid who has some pace.”
That was the alignment Seattle showed in training Friday at CenturyLink Field. It is obvious Schmetzer trusts and values Svensson’s experience, especially against a scorer such as Wright-Phillips.
“He would tell you he’s more comfortable at center back or holding midfielder than at right back,” Schmetzer said. “He is versatile. And he’s been really good with this group.”
It appears Svensson will occupy one of the two defensive spots. If he remains in right back, expect Tony Alfaro to play center back — and Fisher to be one of the first reserves to play.