Now that the Seattle Sounders are the 2nd worst team - yes, that is true - they are in a situation where they need a winning streak. Most teams in MLS have a three-game win streak in them during a year. Columbus, Red Bulls, Orlando, Philly, Portland, and Toronto all have three-match, or more, winning streaks in 2017.
In 2016 Colorado, Dallas, D.C., LA, Montreal, New England, RBNY, NYCFC, RSL, Seattle, KC and Vancouver all did the same. In 2015 sixteen teams had three-game winning streaks. It’s common, even for a bad team in MLS, to win three in a row.
Seattle needs that. It starts with one game.
“You don’t have to be a genius to know that we’re not nearly as high as we want to be. That being said you look at where people [teams] are and we got a two-game homestand now before a little break,” Harry Shipp told Sounder at Heart. “If we can put together two wins - Salt Lake first and foremost. You start climbing back up in the table because [teams] are so close in this league. All you gotta do is get into the playoffs and anything can happen.”
Brad Evans is about to return to the starting lineup. He sees Saturday’s game as his opportunity to really influence the season. Evans has only been a sub in two blowouts.
“It’s getting into the game slowly, but also knowing that this is a home game. We gotta win this one. Without really talking about it this is a must-win game for us,” Evans told the media after Friday’s practice. “We gotta right the ship. It puts pressure on us, but it’s welcome pressure. We’ve been in this situation before - we should feel that pressure in front of our fans, in our home stadium. That should be pressure that we feed off of and that pushes us to the next level to get out of there with a good result.”
It’s a ship that could be sinking. Shipp and Evans want to feed off the crowd. Coach isn’t quite ready to call it a must-win for the team, but also recognizes that the former captain is more motivated than most on his team, right now.
“It is [must-win] for [Brad], because he wants to come back and help the team. He's been frustrated because he's such a team guy and he wants the team to do well and he can't help. I think that's why he's a little more emotional about it,” Brian Schmetzer told the gathered press. “I think, for us, if we perform up to our abilities, we will get results. For me, it's playing up to our ability.”
That could involve a formation change. It could be a starting XI that is close to first choice. It could mean a tiny bit more effort and focus from the entire roster and staff.
“None of us, players, coaching staff...nobody in the organization likes where we are, but it's reality,” Schmetzer said. “So we're trying to work through it. I couldn't say how far away we are, there's nothing that's really settled until the mathematical outcome whether we are out or in. I'd say that we've had some games where we should have picked up a couple of points, we've had some games where we gave them away. The guys are determined, they won't quit, they won't stop working.”
Never quitting was part of that miracle run last Fall and Winter.
“At any point the ship can right itself and that starts at home. That starts with a Conference opponent. There’s a number of things as to why this is a big game. To get on a good hot streak it’s gotta start somewhere. There’s no better time then putting in the effort and getting a week off until our next big home game, picking points up at home is key. You come in every day with the same attitude. For me personally it’s ‘Can I make a difference?’ And that’s helping the guys on the field. It’s helping the guys next to me and in front of me and the guys inside. That’s my goal.”
Harry Shipp returned to Chicago - his first team, his hometown - where he started on the right. With the Chicago Fire he experienced losing, but it wasn’t as frustrating as the week he, and the Sounders just had.
“It’s different, because the expectations are a little bit different from when I was with Chicago. Coming off the season the Sounders had last year you don’t expect to necessarily go through a run like this, but it happens,” he explained. “It’s frustrating. I think this past week has been one of the lower moments for me soccer-wise. I think going away for a week and having those two results is tough. We’re happy to be back and playing at home. As I’ve said before the best thing you can do after two results like that is get back out and play. The weather’s nice which makes it a bit easier, but you saw it today the guys are happy to be out playing and trying to forget the past seven days.”
Saturday’s game is just that opportunity to play. It’s the chance to begin something in 2017, and recover from a start that satisfies no one in Rave Green. Shipp knows it takes just a single win to start over.
“It’s continue to build, to play well, get one result this weekend and hopefully that provides the confidence going into the Summer.”