Don’t call the match Sunday a breakthrough. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said he feels his team has shaken off the last of its recent doldrums since the calendar turned to August.
It was just a second-half stoppage time goal against FC Dallas that clouded Seattle’s return to the form that had the club off to a MLS record 13-match unbeaten streak to open the season.
Thumping Portland 6-2 at Providence Park on Sunday was just part of Seattle’s regained flex.
The Sounders (10-3-6) will know for certain after the road trip this week. Seattle has a rematch against Dallas on Wednesday, then a MLS Cup rematch against the Columbus Crew on Saturday.
Before the Portland victory, the Sounders were 1-3-1 as they managed first-choice player absences due to international call-ups and injures. It was a stretch when at one point Schmetzer made club history by starting five teenagers in a road victory against Austin FC.
“We played well against Dallas, even though that ended up being a draw,” Schmetzer said of the 1-1 outcome at Lumen Field on Aug. 4.
The Sounders then defeated Tigres UANL in the Leagues Cup tournament opener the following week.
“The Tigres win gave us plenty of momentum,” Schmetzer continued. “Nico Lodeiro’s inclusion into the team had given us a boost. Cristian (Roldan) coming back from his tournament with the (U.S.) national team. There’s a lot of things that are starting to steamroll into place. We’re just going to try to keep that going and emphasize what I told them after the (Portland) game — MLS is hard. It’s a hard league and we’ve got to get through Dallas midweek, Columbus, which isn’t going to be an easy task. We’ve just got to keep fighting.”
Here are three things to look for this week:
In three matches, the Sounders have doubled their scoring output from the month of July. Seattle has scored 10 goals in the month of August. Lodeiro’s from distance in the victory against Tigres was jaw-dropping but striker Raul Ruidiaz bested that against Portland.
The Peruvian suffered a foul from Larrys Mabiala just outside the box for a free kick. The Timbers lined up to form a wall but Ruidiaz used a running lead-up to send a right-footed screamer to the upper right corner in the 55th minute. The shot gave Seattle a 3-2 lead and was a catalyst to the eventual victory.
“Part of it was me telling him how to kick,” Lodeiro teased, as translated from Spanish. “Seriously, Raul has great quality. Not only him, Fredy (Montero), Jimmy (Medranda). But Raul’s came at a very important moment. We had just suffered the tie, so it was a very important moment.”
With Lodeiro playing more minutes since his return from knee surgery in May, he’s worked with Joao Paulo and Roldan to get the Sounders more chances. Ruidiaz leads MLS with 13 goals while Joao Paulo is second in the league with eight assists.
“We cannot rest just because of the results, just because of the beautiful goals,” Lodeiro said. “There’s a match against Dallas and we need to go back to work.”
Sounders midfielder Nicolas Benezet entered the match Sunday in the 87th minute and scored in second-half stoppage time. It was the first appearance and goal since he was acquired from Colorado at the close of the summer transfer window earlier this month.
The appearance was strategic in that Schmetzer plans to change his starting lineup for the midweek game in Dallas. Seattle will still get help from its youth in midfielder Danny Leyva pegged to get minutes.
“He’s going to play against Dallas, so I needed (Benezet) to incorporate himself a little bit in the group,” Schmetzer said. “All of us as coaches, we’re proud of the fact we got this team to a point where they get it. They understand the tactics we want.”
Seattle is in the midst of a numbers game if it wants to reach its fifth MLS Cup since 2016. The Sounders currently are second in Western Conference standings, which means they would hold playoff games at Lumen Field through the semifinals, should teams advance according to seedings.
But Seattle (36 points) leads the third-place Los Angeles Galaxy by only a point (35).
A loss at Minnesota in July is Seattle’s only defeat on the road this season. The Sounders are 5-1-2 this season away from Lumen Field and this week isn’t a good time to slip up on the road.