With a playoff spot now locked up, the Seattle Sounders’ final two games are all about positioning. A win against the San Jose Earthquakes puts the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds very much in play. A loss leaves them at risk of going on the road. Here’s what we hope to see from this weekend’s penultimate match:
Managing without the cornerstone
We may not know much about construction, but we do understand that every building that’s built with bricks or stones needs a cornerstone. That’s the stone that every other stone in the building is set by.
Well, the Sounders’ cornerstone is Nico Lodeiro and we saw how the Sounders managed without their cornerstone last weekend. It’s likely that they’ll have to play without Lodeiro against the Earthquakes. Seattle will likely have to manage at least one more game without Lodeiro, and they need to do a much better job than they did against DC United. This team has enough talent to take on SJ without Nico. Víctor Rodríguez was supposed to be the guy who filled in when Lodeiro wasn’t available and he’s now healthy. Let’s see if he can rise to the occasion.
Show you can compete on the road
The Sounders have had an up and down season. At times they’ve looked like they could compete with LAFC as the best team in the league and at other times they’ve looked absolutely abject. Well, the playoffs are right around the corner and positions in the Western Conference are starting to finalize. If the Sounders have any hopes of going deep into the playoffs, they’ll likely have to play at least one game on the road.
Enter the match on Sunday in San Jose. Obviously, it’s not a literal must-win game for Seattle, as they’ve already clinched a playoff spot. But the Sounders are now coming off consecutive deflating road performances and need to show they can still perform away from CenturyLink Field.
Get Ruidíaz touches higher up the pitch
If there was a defining image from the loss to D.C. United, it was the utter look of frustration on the face of Raúl Ruidíaz when he didn’t get that pass from Brad Smith early the game. Ruidíaz is here mainly for one reason, and that reason is to make that exact run and to finish that exact chance. Instead, Smith decided to shoot — which wasn’t necessarily wrong — and the Sounders’ chance to seize control of the game passed. For much of the rest of the evening, Ruidíaz found himself dropping into midfield to get touches, mostly out of frustration. I wouldn’t call it a concerning trend, but he is currently on a 300-plus minute scoreless drought, which is the longest he’s gone without a goal since the elapsed time between his first and second career Sounders goals. Ruidíaz still ranks as one of the most efficient scorers in MLS, but the Sounders need to put him in positions to succeed.
Unleash the kraken
For whatever reason, we saw a different Jordan Morris last week. Where we’ve grown accustomed to seeing a player who relishes his 1-v-1 opportunities, Morris was oddly deferential against United. Maybe he was just tired, maybe he just wasn’t feeling it. Whatever the reason, hopefully he’s ready to resume his dominant ways, because the Sounders need that right now. Facing a team who insists on man-marking all over the field, this seems like a particularly good time to get Morris the ball on the wing and just let him run at the opposing right back.
Stabilize the center
As much as we may like the idea of Emmanuel Cecchini partnering up with Gustav Svensson, it’s starting to look like he’s not done enough to earn the trust of Brian Schmetzer. That’s fine, he’s got a lot more information to work with than we do. So, in the meantime, what we want to see is stability. If that means a partnership of Jordy Delem and Gustav Svensson for the rest of the season, that’s fine, but we’d love to see the Sounders actually control a match with them. Hopefully, it’s not too much to ask.