When you’re the Seattle Sounders and you’re used to winning, it doesn’t matter how high up on the table of the Western Conference you are – second at the moment and within a point of punter St. Louis CITY SC – it’s falling to five defeats in the last eight games that stings.
Their latest match, a 0–0 draw with bioregional rivals the Portland Timbers, came in front of a 42,000-strong crowd at Lumen Field who got a better show from the second match of the day’s doubleheader with fellow Seattle club the OL Reign losing 2-0 to the Portland Thorns.
Even birthday boy Cristian Roldan, who was subbed in on the 57th minute and purportedly holds talismanic powers for the Rave Green, did very little on his return from a lengthy injury lay-off.
“Certainly, a tie is a tie, you know, it’s not great,” said Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer after the match. “But if you look at the season as a whole, 27 points; 54 probably gets you in the playoffs. We’ve been hovering around first and second [place] all season. I know there’s a ton of games to go today and a couple of teams have games in hand. But overall, I would say that the team has done well.
“We’re in a stretch here where the results could have been better. I think we’ll certainly reflect as a coaching staff next week when we have a full preparation before the Charlotte game. But overall, I can’t be horribly upset.”
A fair enough assessment, but to the Sounders’ faithful, there is cause for alarm given the recent lack of decent results. They’ve eked out 17 of 30 possible points at home – granted, above 50% but telling of a team that was once known for its home field advantage.
Schmetzer’s been without the heavy artillery of his arsenal, with the just-returned Roldan and Raúl Ruidíaz not yet fully ready, and with Jordan Morris being out injured. Others on injury report or barely back from injury include defensemen Nouhou Tolo and Ethan Dobbelaere, as well as Josh Atencio and Kelyn Rowe.
“Look, it’s tough sledding out there in the heat, when the turf gets a little sticky,” said Schmetzer. “But the question I asked them was, did we really create enough chances? And I think you could say the answer is probably not. We need to create a little bit more.”
It’s been two years since they’ve taken a positive from the Timbers and at least since 2017 that they’ve beaten them at the Lumen.
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“That is a sore spot. It’s kind of a black hole on the résumé, for sure,” said Schmetzer of his opposite, Timber’s gaffer Giovanni Savarese’s advantage in Cascadian bioregionalism. “He has had my number since he started with Portland. There’s no denying that; that’s a fact.
“I thought the tactics were OK,” he added. “Did they accomplish what we wanted? No, because we didn’t score. But certainly we kept another clean sheet and if we defend well, we’re going to win a lot more games than we’re going to lose.”
Serious enough when you have that aforementioned winner’s lifestyle – that the points support their second-place spot at the table will require a deep dive into Western Conference data analytics but adding insult to injury must also be that the lost their Concacaf Champions League crown to whoever wins Sunday’s CCL second leg between LAFC and Club León.