SEATTLE – Don’t call Sunday’s match a breakthrough. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer 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 this week’s road trip. Seattle has a rematch against Dallas on Wednesday then a MLS Cup rematch against the Columbus Crew on Saturday.
Before the Portland win, the Sounders were 1-3-1 as they managed first-choice player absences due to international call-ups and injures. Schmetzer made club history for starting five teenagers in a road win against Austin FC during the stretch.
“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 a Leagues Cup tournament opener the following week.
“The Tigres win gave us plenty of momentum,” Schmetzer said. “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 July. Seattle has scored 10 goals in August. Lodeiro’s from distance in the win 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 players 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 win.
“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 (Monetro), 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 Sunday’s match 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 are second in Western Conference standings, which means they would host playoff games at Lumen Field through the semifinals, should teams advance according to seedings.
But Seattle (36 points) only leads the third-place Los Angeles Galaxy by 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 overall this season away from Lumen Field .
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