As far as memorable matches go, the Seattle Sounders 1-0 victory over FC Dallas might have been forgotten as soon as final whistle blew Tuesday evening at Lumen Field.
To be sure, the Sounders were pleased to tally the three points, and for the time being it took them over the MLS red line. But as for talking points to take from the match, well, there may be more of a review of the current standing than the replay of the game.
That’s not to say the Sounders were poor on the day — typically they haven’t been during this uneven MLS season — but the struggles to find a cohesive, consistent lineup which mirrored their Concacaf Champions League run are still apparent as the MLS season enters its final stretch. It’s tough to believe, but less than a third of the season remains, and by this time coach Brian Schmetzer would surely have liked to lock down his rotation in preparation for a MLS Cup playoff run.
But much like the 2021 season, that consistency has eluded the Sounders, thanks to fixture congestion early and injuries often. And while the Sounders have had the unexpected pleasure of a fully fit Nico Lodeiro, who continued his perfect conversion rate from the penalty spot to secure the victory, their midfield has been fairly devastated by long-term injuries and the forward position limited by the loss of Raul Ruidiaz for long stretches.
Still, Ruidiaz’s return and the move of Cristian Roldan to the defensive midfield gives the Sounders hope they can establish a rhythm that has been lacking since lifting the CCL trophy. If they can create rhythm in these last 11 matches, there may yet be hope for a long MLS Cup playoff run.
A sorely needed clean sheet
The Sounders’ first shutout in exactly a month was exactly with their beleaguered backline needed. The victims of more than a few lapses in concentration, the Sounders had been playing from behind for large stretches, and with a struggling attack, had been unable to fashion many comebacks save an impressive shorthanded victory versus Colorado. However, against Dallas, the Sounders were stout in defense throughout. Particularly in the second half, when Dallas brought their heavy firepower off the bench, the Sounders arguably got stronger, limiting the visitors to only one real chance late in the match.
The offensive attack is still out-of-sorts
The clean sheet was particularly timely given the offensive output was modest, at best. The Sounders were able to create some pressure on the Dallas backline thanks to Jordan Morris’ ability to get in behind the defense, and that's ultimately what got the Sounders the victory. But otherwise, there wasn’t much there from the Sounders from the run of play. Things did seem to look up when Raul Ruidiaz entered the match, and it was clear that Dallas was worried about the Peruvian international’s ability to create, so a fit Ruidiaz will hopefully allow the Sounders to return to their more dynamic early season form.
Will a starting-quality winger please stand up
With Cristian Roldan seemingly set to play in the defensive midfield for the remainder of the regular season, the Sounders have a ‘for hire’ sign at his previous position on the wing. Both Leo Chu and Jimmy Medranda have gotten auditions at the position, and neither has yet to establish themselves as presumptive starter. With the prospects for reinforcements limited due to the Sounders’ salary budget restrictions, the opportunities will be there for the likes of Chu, Medranda, or perhaps one of the young homegrowns to seize the day.
Lodeiro continues his comeback tour
Nico Lodeiro probably already wrapped up Comeback Player of the Year even if he did little else this year, but the continued resurgence of arguably the Sounders’ most impactful signing ever continues to amaze. Lodeiro extended his perfect record from the penalty spot in the regular season, and his ability to play back-to-back matches on short rest is such a departure from his struggles of last year that it almost defies belief. The Sounders are obviously managing and monitoring his workload, but Lodeiro seems none the worse for wear as the season winds down.
Sounders playoff position not quite as dire
Obviously the Sounders need to pick up the points pace if they want to do more that squeak into one of the last few playoff spots, but with Tuesday’s victory, Brian Schmetzer’s side is squarely in the playoff mix, other Wednesday results aside. The road ahead is daunting, with some long road trips yet and handful of so-called “six-pointers,” but thanks to the logjam in the middle of the Western Conference, the Sounders playoff destiny remains in their own hands. Having appeared to straighten out their home form somewhat, the goal now can be to focus on securing some road results to provide a needed cushion. That starts in Atlanta, where the Sounders will meet up with an old friend.