They say it’s always darkest before the dawn. I’m not sure why they say that since it is unequivocally not true, but it is a saying and I’m going to run with it here because I’m hoping it sort of works when it applies to the Seattle Sounders.
The darkness in this case is the season-longest four-game winless run that they’re currently on. The latest loss came on Tuesday, a 3-0 scoreline that marked Seattle’s worst regular-season loss since 2019. I think the scoreline was particularly unflattering — the Sounders easily could have scored at least three goals if not for unkind woodwork and exemplary goalkeeping — but it will hopefully serve a purpose.
Maybe, just maybe, the Sounders really did need a wake-up call. I know this is what Taylor Twellman argued on the broadcast and Brian Schmetzer sort of pushed back against that idea after the match, but I’ll raise my hand and say that the question I asked about it was not worded as precisely as it could have been.
“There is no positive spin from this and I’m livid actually,” Schmetzer said. “There are some things that are non-negotiables on this club and there were a lot of things we didn’t do well in that first half.
“Everyone in that locker room, we hate losing. This is a proud franchise. This was not up to our standard. I’ll be the first to hold my hand up and say we need to do better.”
Frustrated as Schmetzer was with the first half, he also correctly noted that the Sounders were much better in the second half. Nouhou had an open header carom off the underside of the crossbar almost immediately after halftime, Fredy Montero had a close-range header saved shortly thereafter, and the Sounders forced Jamal Blackman into a couple more impressive saves later in the match.
For all Schmetzer’s frustration over the Sounders’ play, it’s also worth noting that by the end of the game they had effectively pulled even on Expected Goals and held a rather commanding 75-60 advantage on duels. It’s impossible to separate those stats from the game-state — in which LAFC were mostly in control — but I think the degree to which the Sounders were simply played off the pitch is overstated by the scoreline.
What I do think we learned is that Josh Atencio and Kelyn Rowe — while both very useful — do not make a particularly good pairing; the offense probably needs at least one player who can force defenses to retreat; and the Sounders have to figure out a way to stop giving up early goals (that’s four inside the first 25 minutes over the last four games, after only giving up two that early in their first 28 games).
Still, maybe there was some value in bottoming out, and let’s hope that’s what this was. The Sounders have been dealing with a remarkable level of challenges this year and maybe playing without all three of their Designated Players on the road, on short rest, and against an opponent that was effectively in a must-win situation was too much. I don’t think we can write this game off — or the three that preceded it — entirely, but I also think there’s a tendency to overreact as well.
It was less than three weeks ago that the Sounders were riding a four-game winning streak which included multi-goal wins over two of the league’s hottest teams. It’s also looking increasingly likely that they’ll be as close to full strength as they’ve been literally all year for these last two games, and hopefully for the playoffs as well.
Nicolás Lodeiro looked more like his old self against LAFC than he had in most of the games he’s played prior to that. Raúl Ruidíaz is expected to be back for Monday’s game against the LA Galaxy and he’s the most efficient scorer in MLS playoff history. Jordan Morris is even expected to be playing again, maybe as soon as the next game. Morris is unlikely to be fit enough to start this year, but the prospect of bringing him off the bench should strike fear into any opponent.
Let’s not forget that this team has at times looked as good as any in Sounders history, which is really saying something! I know it looked like the wheels were seriously coming off at times on Tuesday, but I’m not ready to write these guys off.
“We’re still a good team,” Schmetzer said. “There’s still a lot of hope in that locker room.”