Each of the past two seasons, the Seattle Sounders have made impressive sprints to the finish line. Each time it has carried them to the MLS Cup final. Two years ago, their turnaround essentially started in August. Last year, it started around July 4.
If they are to make it a third time, the Sounders need to start their turnaround now.
“We are looking at every game as a final at this point,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said following Saturday’s frustrating tie, which ideally would have been when the turnaround actually started. “Every game is a final. You can’t lose these games. Mathematically, if we lose a couple more, we are done. It’s already been a failure to the season, but at this point, we can turn that around. If we lose those couple of games, it’s a complete failure. We have a little bit left to save ourselves from this. We’ve done it before and we’re certainly capable of it. But it’s a matter of not saying it and actually doing it.”
Roldan accepted his share of the blame for the most recent result. He was gifted a golden opportunity to put the Sounders ahead when he found himself with a left-footed opportunity near the edge of the penalty area and the goalkeeper out of position. His shot made it through the sea of Fire defenders, but was too high.
Despite the frustrations, Roldan has maintained a positive outlook. His teammates seem to have done the same and it’s been repeatedly pointed out that training sessions have remained sharp.
Surely, some of those positive vibes come from the knowledge that they’ve been here and done that in previous years. But there also comes a point at which salvaging the season is no longer a manner of ability, but one of simple math. Outwardly, at least, there seems to be a realization of this.
“Eventually we can’t keep saying that,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said following Wednesday’s training session. “We need to turn these games into three points. The positivity is still there because we know we have good players. The theme has been unfortunate injuries, but we’re getting guys back now. It’s time stop talking and make the results show. There’s no better opponent than Saturday’s.”
The Sounders will face the Portland Timbers, a team for whom no added motivation should be needed. But it’s there anyway.
“Maybe other teams are hopeless at this point,” Roldan said on Wednesday. “I don’t think we are. We feel like we have a chance to still get back into it.
“The truth is we still have a chance and a chance is good enough. We have to come together as a team, more than ever, and grind every game out. You tie here and there and your hopes and dreams are gone. We owe so much to this club, we don’t want to be part of the history of not making the playoffs.