Seattle's Brian Schmetzer coached four-time MLS All-Star Ozzie Alonso for 10 seasons as a Sounders assistant and head coach and the two have remained friends since Alonso was traded to Minnesota two years ago.
Until these days, before Monday's Western Conference final.
"I didn't text him. I didn't think it was appropriate," Schmetzer said, referring to keeping his distance after the Loons beat Sporting Kansas City on Thursday to advance to their first Western final. "He needs to focus on the playoffs, and I need to focus on the playoffs."
Schmetzer returned a congratulatory text with pal Adrian Heath after the Sounders beat LAFC two weeks ago. Alonso, who won two MLS Cups in Seattle, returned to play for the first time against his former team on last season's final day.
"He's going to be up for the game for sure," Schmetzer said. "We played against him before, so it's not going to be the first time. But certainly it will be the first time in a playoff atmosphere. He knows what it takes to win the playoffs, but he's just one player … I loved Ozzie. He's a great man, great family. Whenever our paths do cross, there will always be a warm exchange."
Alonso's 72-minute performance Thursday was his first start in two months because of injury. This is his 12th consecutive playoffs, the first 10 in Seattle.
"They've been showing it for years, they're a great team," Alonso said Saturday after training. "We got Seattle, but it could have been another team. We focus on our game, on our job and go there with joy and guts to give our best to win the game."
The Loons have a team option on Alonso's contract for next season. Heath on Saturday didn't say if the team will bring the 35-year-old veteran back for another season.
"Obviously, a huge game for Ozzie," Heath said. "You don't give what he gave that club for 10 years and not having special feelings for it."
All for one
New Timberwolves guard and soccer fan Ricky Rubio recorded a short video posted Monday morning that wished the Loons luck in Seattle. The Vikings and Adam Thielen, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Wild, Whitecaps and St. Paul Saints, too, were among the local sports teams and organizations to send their best on social media.
"I know we're always very supportive of them organizations as well," Heath said. "I always think it's great for a city when their teams are doing well. It's nice to see. I think it shows we've now established ourselves in the market as one of the major teams. Hopefully, we can keep that going."
Plenty to wine about
Schmetzer sat down with a nice glass of red wine last week and watched Minnesota's 3-0 victory at Sporting Kansas City. Both he and Heath are wine afficionados, and have bonded over a bottle since they became friendly not long after Heath moved to the United States in 2008.
"No doubt win or lose, we'll have a couple of glasses after the game," Heath said.
•Both teams started the same 11 players who got them from the semifinals — Seattle against FC Dallas, Loons against SKC — to the conference final.
•Loons left back Chase Gasper started Monday's game despite a deep gash on his knee. The injury, suffered Thursday in Kansas City, left Heath concerned about his availability.
•Unlike regular-season games, the Loons flew by chartered air to Seattle late Sunday afternoon, had a team dinner, slept in Monday and were scheduled to fly home after the game. To limit exposure to COVID-19, they chartered to and from cities the same day during the season.
• Former college teammates Gasper and Dayne St. Clair led Maryland to the College Cup final on Dec. 7, 2018. They attempted to do the same for Minnesota United on Monday, two years to the day later.
• Game-time temperature was 54 for the scheduled 6:30 p.m. start Seattle time. But kickoff was pushed back to 6:55 (8:55 p.m. Twin Cities time).