TUKWILA, Wash. — Through the first half of the 2017 season, your Seattle Sounders have played 19 games with 11 of them on the road. The first half of the season has featured plenty of fixture congestion and long road trips. With a short roster, international call-ups, suspensions, and injuries, players have been called upon frequently to step up without much warning or fit into unnatural positions, just to make the team work. This has resulted in much mental and physical fatigue.
Like a student after finals week, the boys have their sights set on getting as much rest as possible. Soon, the scenery in the league will shift, inviting a host of changes. The international players will return home and new faces will trickle in, altering the team composition. Big names will try their hand at taking a team on their shoulders in an attempt to reach the pinnacle of MLS glory. The intensity on and off the pitch will surge as every point matters from here on out. But, before this change occurs, a two week break in MLS play will allow for a recharging of the body and the spirit.
Gustav Svensson homed in on one aspect of the break: time away from the game. “Basically, it's been a tough first half of the season — lot of games, lot of travel, lot of tough games. So, I'm going to have a couple of days off and then we’re going to come back and do hard work and make sure that we are physically fit for the last part,” he said to Sounder at Heart last week.
Will Bruin shared a similar sentiment on the purpose of their break: much needed rest, but the lighthearted bear hinted at some leisure time, too. His goal is to “kind of just get away a little bit — maybe get on the golf course and just kind of relax and kind of recharge mentally for the last push of the season.”
The breaks earlier in the season have seen players taking family excursions or exploring our great state. This break has a much different feel. Instead of time away from soccer, the days are time in preparation. What exactly is the squad preparing for? A home-heavy schedule with nine of the remaining 15 matches at friendly confines.
MLS is a league where home teams reign supreme. For reference, D.C. United and LA Galaxy are the only teams with a losing home record. Will Bruin ignites some hope for our team below the red line, telling Sounder at Heart, “If you take care of your home games, you put yourself in a good position to make the playoffs.” And the Sounders are a team that can take care of their home games. Gustav Svensson, again, redoubles on those thoughts: “We have good support from our fans at home. It's difficult for the opponents to come to Seattle, so it's to our advantage. I think we have to make sure we do what we do at home and keep on winning.”
When the Sounders take the practice field again this week, they go into the remainder of the season ready, recharged, and confident knowing a home-heavy schedule awaits. They’re a team that will be primed for success when they take the field again. Their rest, coupled with the addition of Kelvin Leerdam, an open transfer window, and many home games could add up to another late season surge up the table. If this all works out, the second half of the season is looking good in Seattle.