They would have been the hottest team in town no matter what on Saturday, with Seattle temperatures reaching a torturous triple digits at one point in the afternoon. But the Sounders own that figurative title as well, even if their latest match didn’t result in a victory.
When Sounders defender Jimmy Medranda slipped the ball past Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau in the 71st minute — the final goal of the match — it did not give the Sounders the lead. But it did end up being the reason for the Sounders extending their unbeaten streak to a franchise-record 11 games. The MLS record, held by the Galaxy, is 12.
Right now the Sounders (7-0-4) are the toughest out in the MLS. They might not be bulldozing the majority of the foes they face (four of their victories have been by one goal), but they’ve been impervious to L’s.
Does that mean they were in a celebratory mood after finishing in a 2-2 tie with the struggling Whitecaps (2-6-2)? Not necessarily. But the draw did reflect a resolve that has shot Seattle to the top of the Western Conference standings.
“The compliment I gave the team after the game was that they never quit,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “A lot of teams in the MLS, they go down, they end up losing all the points. For us to come back and fight … we were fighting. We were going for all three. That’s what I was most proud of.”
It looked as though the Sounders were gonna nab victory No. 8 when forward Raul Ruidiaz put them up 1-0 with a goal in the 40th minute off an assist from Brad Smith. They had the home crowd of 25,603 behind them. They were playing a struggling franchise. They had the swagger of a team in early contention for the Supporters’ Shield, given to the team with the best regular-season record.
But then the mistakes started piling up. First, there was a turnover by defender Alex Roldan, which gave Vancouver’s Déiber Caicedo a one-on-one with goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland, who made a spectacular save. Then, Cleveland misjudged a long ball over the top, which allowed Christian Dájome to even the score at 1-1. Then, Shane O’Neill miscalculated a cross that bounced right over his head, which set up a goal by Whitecaps forward Lucas Cavallini. Can’t imagine Roldan or O’Neill is looking forward to the next film session.
Still, mishaps are going to happen over the course of a season. And up until that point, the Sounders had very few of them. Before Saturday, they hadn’t given up a goal in run-of-play all year (opponents had only scored on free kicks and penalty kicks). So their coach is willing to live with the result.
“We all knew that this was going to happen at some point, that they’d score in the run of play. That was going to happen,” Schmetzer said. “You could call it an individual mistake, you can call it a good play by Vancouver depending on what side of the fence you’re on. I’m going to try and be positive here.”
His team stayed positive as well. Medranda’s goal stemmed from an assist by Fredy Montero off a corner kick. And Crépeau made two saves in the final two minutes before stoppage time — one on a left-footed bullet from Ruidiaz, and another on a Montero header from the center of the box.
The Sounders couldn’t get that third goal, though, and hence couldn’t get the three points.
“We always want to win at home. Today was a very difficult game,” Medranda said. “But we kept fighting.”
There isn’t much to critique about Seattle’s start to the year, but if you’re looking, a (slight) lack of wins at home might be one of them. The Sounders are 4-0-3 at Lumen Field as opposed to 3-0-1 on the road.
Schmetzer said Saturday that a tie feels like a loss to him, especially in Seattle where the goal is always three points. But there isn’t anything to be too concerned about.
The Sounders have built a bit of a reputation for starting the season slow before mounting a charge in the second half of the season and forging their way into the MLS Cup. In 2021, they have taken a different and — to this point, at least — more satisfying approach.
The sun is going to scorch the Puget Sound area over the next couple of days. But even if it wasn’t, the Sounders would be blazing hot.