After harsh feedback from Major League Soccer fans and their respective teams, the Supporters’ Shield Foundation could be reconsidering its decision to not award the trophy to the club that finishes the 2020 season with the best record.
The five-person board made the initial announcement Saturday to not give the honor. But on Monday they posted via their Twitter account that, “We are currently holding meetings with supporter group representatives about the original decision in light of new information and feedback we have received.”
Comments were disallowed on Monday’s post.
Sounders keeper Stefan Frei was among those expressing displeasure at the initial announcement.
“It took way too long for them to cancel that thing,” Frei said Sunday during a video conference call with media, adding it should’ve been announced after MLS’s first return to play with a summer tournament in Florida.
In August, MLS knew Canadian teams would only be able to play themselves in the second restart due to travel restrictions. Those teams are currently sequestered in the U.S. to complete the season. The league also regionalized play between the U.S. teams — the Sounders haven’t played an Eastern Conference club since July.
“If you called it at that point (August), the teams that are at the top of the table right now maybe aren’t as upset about it,” Frei continued. “This trophy is a huge deal. This is by far the most difficult to win, hands down. … They’re everything we play for. For them (Shield Foundation) to kind of hold out until a couple weeks before playoffs happen, it was a little too late for me.”
Because of the 2020 schedule imbalance and many teams, including Seattle, not featuring fans at matches due to the pandemic, the Foundation said via its website “we feel as though the current climate goes against the spirit of the Shield” as its reasoning.
For instance, the Sounders host the Portland Timbers on Thursday at CenturyLink Field for the fourth iteration in the Cascadia derby this season.
The Colorado Rapids have had five total matches postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, including one against Seattle. And some MLS teams have played eight different opponents while others have faced 16.
Still, the Sounders entered last week four points behind Toronto FC for the Supporters’ Shield lead. Seattle (9-4-4) has since lost to Los Angeles FC and finished in a scoreless draw against the San Jose Earthquakes.
The Reds (12-2-5) have since clinched a postseason berth and lead the East with 41 points, playing 19 matches.
“It’s kind of disgraceful,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said Sunday during a video conference call of the original decision. “If you’re a traditional soccer person, then that’s the trophy you always want to win because it shows the best team that has endured over any circumstances.”
The Shield was first awarded in 1998 and has each club winner’s name etched into the trophy. It’s a gift to the league and its supporters through the non-profit organization. Seattle last won the trophy in 2014 and finished runners-up in 2011.
MLS’s front office accepted the decision, eliminating the Shield standings from its website. The league, however, assured that the club with the best overall record would still get the top playoff seed, earn a berth to 2021 CONCACAF Champions League and receive the bonus designated for the Shield winner.
It’s another lost trophy for MLS teams that already saw 2020 Champions League get postponed and the U.S. Open Cup canceled because of the virus. The Cascadia teams were notified in June of that Cup not being awarded because fans cannot attend matches in Vancouver, Portland and Seattle.
The Sounders previously stated they were making a push to win the Shield. Its absence doesn’t take any logs off the fire in facing Portland (9-5-4) on Thursday.
Seattle leads the Western Conference standings. But the Timbers have the momentum in only suffering one loss in their past eight matches, including a 1-0 win against the Sounders at Providence Park in September.
“People can vote any way they can, I’ve got to focus on a game where we stay in first place against a tough opponent,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said Wednesday during a video conference call with media.
Handwalla Bwana trade officially announced
The Sounders officially announced Wednesday the trade of midfielder Handwalla Bwana to Nashville SC. Seattle received Colombian midfielder Jimmy Medranda and a potential total of $250,000 in General Allocation Money in return.
Medranda, 26, has to quarantine and recover from minor injuries before joining the team in training.
Sounders midfielders Joevin Jones (ankle) and Danny Leyva (foot) and defender Brad Smith (hamstring) are progressing and nearing a return to full-training, Schmetzer said Wednesday. Leyva was removed from the injured list but will not be selected Thursday in order to provide more time to train this week.