Beating the Portland Timbers was not some magic elixir for the Seattle Sounders. Yes, it puts them technically back into the final playoff position in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. Winning the Cascadia Cup has gone from long shot to distinct possibility (all they need to do is get a result in Vancouver on Sept. 19).
But don't fool yourself. Nothing is fixed. Nothing is assured. There's still a lot of work to do and none of it is easy. As much fun as it is to point and laugh at Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter for his postgame comments, in reality he was mostly right: His team was better, the Sounders' "high-powered, big-budget team had trouble" and on most days two performances like that will yield a very different result.
What the Sounders did was buy themselves time. Time is the Sounders' biggest enemy at this point, and those three points mean they have a little more of it to figure out how to play together. Their chances of making the postseason are now within a coin-flip range. That's no small thing, mind you, but the importance will be entirely predicated on their ability to actually become a cohesive team over the season's final two months.
The only way that happens, of course, is for them to actually get some training and playing time with their core group.
What made August so brutal wasn't just that they played eight matches in three countries. It's that all that game time and all that traveling meant the team rarely had time to do much work as a group.
But obviously that was only the start. The Sounders added three significant players in the middle of the month. Changing 27 percent of your starting lineup on the run is hard enough. Seattle added a couple degrees of difficulty by continuing their unfortunate run of injuries, splitting up the team for the Honduras trip and then throwing in some international call-ups just for good measure. All told, I'd estimate that the team's top 12-14 players have only trained together in any capacity a handful of times, and Thursday's session was the first time all three current Designated Players were fully participating in a session together.
Given all this, it's no wonder the Sounders look disjointed and unfamiliar with one another.
No one really cares about that, of course. The Sounders put themselves in this position. The injuries and absences are probably the main culprit, but that will be of little consolation if the Sounders miss the playoffs or fail miserably once they are there.
That's why time is so important. Each win they collect, no matter how they do it, gives them a little more time to get comfortable, learn one another's habits and at least scratch the surface of their potential. They don't need to be great. They don't need to impress us with every performance. But they need to get points and they need to do it any way possible.
Beating the Timbers was a step in the right direction. They need to follow it up with another against Toronto FC. Or time will have just about run out.