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Five Thoughts on Sounders’ upward trend

Sounders have won two straight.

MLS: Austin FC at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The jury’s still out on whether the good times are back at Lumen Field, but it was a good time Saturday night for the Seattle Sounders.

Pouncing on Austin FC early and often, the Sounders got two goals before halftime and cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win that kept them in the discussion for qualification to the MLS Cup playoffs.

It’s still merely a discussion at this point, because the Sounders have more than a little work cut for them. But at this point, they can only do what they can to put themselves in the best position they can, which is win the games ahead of them.

Not that they can’t do it will a little style, which is something that had been lacking for most of the summer. But on Friday night, they looked much more the team everyone thought they were getting coming off the Champions League triumph. Dangerous in attack with some clinical finishing, the Sounders were even the beneficiaries of some good luck for once courtesy of an own goal and some untidyness in front of goal from the visitors. But as the saying goes, you make your own luck, and the Sounders, for once, had a little on their side.

Having taken care of business, the Sounders get to do a little scoreboard watching over the midweek, and hope that the soccer gods bestow a bit of luck on them in the form of some favorable results. For most of the last several weeks, the teams ahead of them haven't seen fit to cooperate much in the form of dropped points, and the Sounders will need a few stumbles to truly solidify their chances.

But either way, it’s nice to have some fun at Lumen again.

Sounders Looking Much More Dangerous in Attack

The Sounders’ scoring troubles have been well documented over the summer. When head coach Brain Schmetzer switched to a two-forward setup, it looked like they had solved the issue against the LA Galaxy with a three-goal output. Then they stumbled for a bit, and now it looks like they’re back. A formation switch this late in the year is always a risky proposition; typically you need a preseason to work out the kinks. But now that everyone seems to be on the same page, the Sounders have started scoring with some consistency. They’ll need it down the stretch as the make a final desperate playoff push.

Clean sheet

As important — maybe even moreso — was the Sounders’ first shutout in over a month, and only second one since July. The Sounders have been very pedestrian in defense for much of the year, a particularly galling realization given how much the Sounders traditionally pride themselves on their defensive prowess. Much of the struggle can probably be traced to the injuries in the defensive midfield, but with a seemingly consistent defensive tandem stepping forward, Schmetzer has been able to get some of his attacking pieces in, well, more attacking positions.

Leyva and Atencio hold it down

First of all, what did Danny Leyva do to opposing MLS teams? The 19-year-old seems to be the focus of some odd MLS hazing ritual, for all of the ankle biting and off-the-ball fouls he takes. That aside, out of necessity or design (or both) Leyva and Josh Atencio got another run as the defensive midfield pairing against Austin and acquitted themselves admirably again. Both possess solid awareness and better-than-average passing, so matching the physicality of MLS on a consistent basis is another test the young duo will need to pass down the stretch as they are likely to be starting the majority of remaining matches.

Ruidiaz and Morris shoulder the load

Where the Sounders would be without Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris is a self-answering question, but that doesn’t mean they still deserve plaudits for their part in the Sounders victory. It’s sometimes a struggle to get Morris isolated against bunkering teams, but even sides that play back still have to match his speed and power. As for Ruidiaz, well, what else can one say about one of the most lethal finishers in MLS? Sure both of the goals were served up on a platter, but Ruidiaz is expert at putting himself in the position to finish, which he expertly did to rack up his brace.

Ruidiaz reward is the Sounders headache

Ruidiaz uptick in form has gotten him a somewhat unlikely recall to the Peruvian National team. The announcement was probably met with more than a few head scratches — and expletives — in Sounderland given the somewhat dysfunctional relationship he has with with the previous coaching staff. But Juan Reynoso is the new head coach, taking over for the departed Ricardo Gareca and the latter’s failed attempt to qualify Peru for the 2022 World Cup. There are apparently discussions about ensuring Ruidiaz’s return against Cincinnati. The phrase, “name your price,” comes to mind.

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