TUKWILA — The vibes around Starfire Sports Complex on Tuesday were noticeably improved from as recently as a couple of weeks ago. That’s hardly surprising, considering the Seattle Sounders are now riding their first winning streak in over two months, even if it’s a rather modest two-game run.
But for all the extra smiles, there’s still a sense that much work is left to do. The Sounders are approaching each of their final four games as a virtual must-win, as anything less than the maximum 51 points could leave their playoff aspirations in serious jeopardy.
“At the end of the day, if we don’t do what we need to do over these next four weeks, it won’t matter,” Sounders midfielder Albert Rusnák said. “We put the last game behind us and now we have to prepare for Vancouver — for a game we must win again.”
Before they play the Sounders, the Vancouver Whitecaps have a literal must-win match of their own on Wednesday against the LA Galaxy. If they lose to the Galaxy or drop points along with a Real Salt Lake win, the Whitecaps will be officially eliminated from postseason contention. A Whitecaps win would also help the Sounders in that it will stop the Galaxy from pulling further ahead in the standings. The Sounders will need to pass at least two of the teams currently ahead of them in order to qualify for a 14th consecutive postseason.
For now, though, the Sounders are still mostly focused on themselves, even if they don’t literally control their own destiny.
In that sense, the 3-0 win over Austin FC was a significant step forward. While there were positive signs in the previous win over the Houston Dynamo, it required a second-half comeback against one of the league’s worst teams. Austin, however, has been one of the league’s best. But that didn’t stop the Sounders from controlling most of the game.
A big part of that was the play of young midfielders Danny Leyva and Josh Atencio, who barely put a foot wrong.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said a second viewing of the game only improved his opinion of the team’s performance.
“What we decided was the team played better,” he said. “The game against Houston was a good outing because we won, but there were some flaws. The question we had was how Danny and Josh would do against a better team? I think they answered that pretty darn well. Overall as a group, we got a little better. That was critical for us as coaches.”
Cristian Roldan’s status
Cristian Roldan made another appearance at Sounders training, albeit only doing work on the side. The Sounders have previously said they hope to have the midfielder back in time for the match against Sporting KC on Oct. 2. Perhaps buoyed by the play of the current lineup, Schmetzer seems less inclined to push it now.
“He’s on a strict fitness plan, it’s still going to be awhile,” Schmetzer said. “We’ll see. Let’s get through the next two games.”
Schmetzer backs 12’s
Russell Wilson may still be a Sounders minority owner, but Schmetzer didn’t take any issue with Seattle Seahawks fans booing their former quarterback upon his return with the Denver Broncos on Monday.
“Fans gave it to Russ a little bit,” Schmetzer said. “I probably would have booed if I were in the stadium. Just being competitive. Russ gets it.”
Still, Schmetzer was a little surprised that the Broncos chose to settle for a 64-yard field goal attempt rather than let Wilson try for a first down on 4th-and-5.
“I would have let Russell for sure take that,” Schmetzer said. “That’s why they paid all that money.”