There were times the past decade when Sounders ownership and front office members would have quietly agreed to trade their streak of consecutive playoff appearances for the CONCACAF Champions League title finally won back in May.
Now, as the grueling summer weeks drag onward with injuries mounting and tempers running short, that unspoken Faustian pact looms for a Sounders team looking at times this month to have hit a proverbial wall so many that went deep into Champions League play before them got leveled by. It won’t be a 2-1 comeback win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night that ultimately determines anything, though a somewhat controversial tying goal by Jordan Morris in the 43rd minute and go-ahead 71st minute penalty kick conversion by Nicolas Lodeiro allowed the short-handed Sounders to snap a three-game losing streak.
The Sounders weren’t exactly helped pregame in their quest to snap a goal-scoring slump that eventually reached 342 minutes and several seconds before Morris finally struck. Right before game time, it was learned that left back Nouhou had been scratched for what was termed a “coach’s decision” with no further explanation immediately given.
It also didn’t help that Jonathan Lewis stunned the Lumen Field crowd of 32,476 in just the third minute by racing past flat-footed defender Yeimar, deking Stefan Frei and depositing the ball into an empty net. But all told, things could have gone far worse for the Rave Green after Kelyn Rowe was issued a red card in the 47th minute to put them down a man the rest of the way in a game still tied at that point.
Alas, that’s when Morris, who had been making strong runs up the field all game long, took over once more. He’d already done so earlier, taking a pass from Jimmy Medranda off a quick free kick and chipping one home to tie things 1-1.
Rapids players howled furiously that the free kick was done improperly, but their protests went nowhere after a somewhat lengthy video review.
Then, with his team reduced to playing only 10 men, Morris would race into the box for another close-in 69th minute chance only to be sent toppling to the turf. Lodeiro, as he has so often, set up for the subsequent penalty kick and buried it top-shelf to the left of diving goalkeeper William Yarbrough to put his team ahead to stay.
Whether the confidence sparked by the offensive surge and short-handed play carries over to future Sounders matches more critical than this remains to be seen.
As for the odds of extending their playoff streak to 14 seasons, the Sounders have been down and seemingly out midsummer before only to rally far more improbably for their first MLS Cup title in 2016 and then a stunning playoff berth achieved the final day of the 2018 campaign. Both those teams faced odds seemingly more daunting and insurmountable than the handful of points separating these sub-.500 Sounders from the playoff red line.
But what distinguished both those Rave Green squads in keeping the streak alive was their impactful transfer deadline additions both years, first of Lodeiro and then Raul Ruidiaz two years later.
And it’s highly doubtful — though never impossible — that Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey has a player addition of that magnitude up his sleeve this time around ahead of this year’s Aug. 4 deadline. And with Ruidiaz still nursing a hamstring strain, midfielder Obed Vargas out with a back injury and midfielder Joao Paulo done for the season with a torn ACL, their depleted squad could certainly use reinforcements.
But this time, it may be largely left to the players already here to rally back to something resembling the team that last month made it up to fourth place in the Western Conference standings before forgetting how to score. Morris got that process started in this one and veterans like him may need to shoulder any streak-prolonging season comeback as well.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.