June's 2-1 loss to Timbers was the low point of Seattle's season, the last game in a club-record seven-match winless streak.
TUKWILA — Three months ago, Sounders FC was at a crossroads.
At least that’s how coach Sigi Schmid put it following a demoralizing 2-1 road loss to rival Portland back in June. The defeat was Seattle’s first to its main rival in four years since joining MLS; it also extended the team’s winless streak to a franchise-worst seven games.
“I think it was the lowest point of the season, for sure,” said assistant coach Brian Schmetzer. “That stretch was wearing on all of us.”
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Three months later, the Sounders return to Portland this weekend on the verge of clinching a playoff berth having gone 6-1-4 since that nightmare at JELD-WEN Field.
So was it a wake-up call? As Seattle heads toward what is assuredly a fourth straight trip to the playoffs, was that painful defeat a turning point?
“I think that’s too much focus on that one game,” Schmetzer said. “We have too much pride as an organization, from Sigi to the last guy on our roster, and there was not anyone in that group that didn’t do a little bit more reflection, self reflection, thinking outside of the box, back inside of the box, work a little harder in training, work a little smarter in training for us to get out of that slide.”
Schmid remembers that June performance in Portland as lacking both in quality and composure, and the postgame message to the team was blunt: That wasn’t good enough and things have to change.
The Sounders followed that up with an against-the-odds win against league-leading San Jose in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal, a game played on just one day’s rest. Overall, Seattle has lost just twice in its 16 games in all competitions since the Portland loss — only once if you count a loss in the Open Cup final as a tie, as the tournament does.
“Obviously the guys responded,” Schmid said, “and they’ve responded very well.”
Steady success doesn’t mean the Sounders have forgotten about that June defeat where Timbers fans victoriously chanted and triumphantly waved flags.
Midfielder Brad Evans said revenge will be an element of the team’s motivation, and defender Zach Scott said he is determined to keep the Cascadia Cup, a fan-sponsored trophy among the three Pacific Northwest rivals, out of Portland’s hands.
“(It would) basically make their entire season if they beat us again at home,” said Scott, who added the Sounders are battling for potential playoff seeding. “For us … these points are humongous aside from it being a rivalry game.”
Added defender Jeff Parke: “We can go down there and change things. We can come back with a win, change the story and have guys smiling and fans laughing and having a good time instead … wondering what the hell happened that day.”
• Eddie Johnson was named MLS Player of the Week for his two-goal performance against Chivas USA.
• Schmid said he expects midfielders Christian Tiffert (ankle) and Mauro Rosales (quad) to be available Saturday in Portland.
• Fredy Montero has the fourth-most sold player jersey in MLS, according to rankings released by the league Tuesday. Rosales ranks ninth and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso comes in at No. 13. Not surprisingly, L.A. Galaxy star David Beckham is No. 1.