By the end of next week, we should have a pretty good idea of whether or not this season is salvageable for the Sounders. During a seven-day stretch, they will play at Minnesota United, at Austin FC and then close out with a likely season-defining home match against the Portland Timbers. It’s a stretch of games that has the potential to turn around or totally sink their season.
A quick glance of what’s ahead:
Sunday, Aug. 27 at Minnesota United
There’s no MLS team the Sounders have played more than once against whom they have a better record than the Loons. In 13 all-time meetings, the Sounders are 11-1-1. That includes a 3-1-1 road record. History aside, though, Minnesota should be considered the favorites. Although they’re just 2-2-6 at home this year, they’ve been a much more interesting team ever since Emanuel Reynoso rejoined them 13 games ago. While their 4-4-5 record isn’t exactly impressive, they’re averaging 1.92 goals per match. Of course, they’re also allowing 2.0 goals per game during that stretch while also collecting three red cards in their past six.
How badly do the Sounders need this? This match will also be a test of sorts for Brian Schmetzer, who has promised to change up his lineup after three straight multi-goal losses. If the Sounders can’t at least pull together in this one, tough decisions are going to be unavoidable. I don’t know that the Sounders need to win, but they do need to find a way to at least get a point.
Wednesday, Aug. 30 at Austin FC
Like the Sounders, Austin was bounced from the Leagues Cup rather ignominiously. Unlike the Sounders, they couldn’t simply blame it on being in one of the toughest groups. Based on Concacaf’s ratings, Austin was in one of the softest groups despite being paired with two Liga MX teams. They were still outscored 6-2 while playing both games at home.
Their league form has been a bit better, but their defense has been a mess. They lost their most recent game 6-3 to St. Louis City and have now allowed 12 goals in their past three games.
How badly do the Sounders need this? Austin will have one more day of rest, but will be coming off a must-win rivalry match against FC Dallas. It’s at least possible they’ll choose to rotate as much as the Sounders do. That said, if there’s one game the Sounders can afford to drop points in, this is it.
Saturday, Sept. 2 vs. Portland Timbers
As bad as the vibes feel in Seattle, things are worse in Portland. They’re so bad, in fact, that Gio Savarese just got fired after a 5-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo. It was at least a little surprising, as the Timbers hadn’t exactly been bad prior to the Dynamo loss. Sure, they fell in back-to-back Leagues Cup matches, but those were both one-goal losses to very good Liga MX opponents. Prior to that, they’d won consecutive games against the Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes. Like the Sounders, they’ll be coming off a midweek game, too.
How badly do the Sounders need this? Almost regardless of what happens in the other two games, it’s hard to imagine the Sounders needing this win more badly than they will. Take away the context of the week or even the season, the Sounders simply can’t afford to blow this opportunity to finally beat the Timbers at home for the first time since 2017. Not only are the Timbers scuffling a bit, but Savarese has kinda owned Schmetzer during their overlapping tenures.
These are three very winnable games for the Sounders and a nine-point week could shoot them as high as first place in the Western Conference. But these are also dangerous opponents, and if the Sounders play anything like they did against Atlanta, it’s entirely possible they come away with zero points. At that point, I think you can almost stick a fork in them even if they’d still be in playoff position. - Jeremiah
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Spain's women thrive while their leadership crumbles; NWSL crowds grow; Houston makes the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup
Spain's triumph in the Women's World Cup was because of the athletes – not the coach, not the president of the federation. It was the women who won the tournament, and not the sexually aggressive President who refuses to resign. Now some of Spain's men are joining in the call for there to be massive changes. That President who claimed he was resigning, to the point that a press conference was called and releases were drafted naming his successor? He stepped up to the microphone, denied your lying eyes, and now refuses to step down. Spanish authorities are opening an investigation into his behavior.
Despite the U.S. women falling well short of their standard (Horan blames the coaching staff) at the World Cup, teams around the NWSL are hosting larger crowds. Attendance is up around the league for the season. Reign's attendance streak is following a pattern similar to 2019. Every post-World Cup match is potentially record setting, with the October 6 home finale likely to exceed the first double-header's attendance record. Fueled by the retirement of Megan Rapinoe, the match is also massive in the standings. Reign and Spirit have spent the year swinging between playoff positions.
Even though matches were overnight and the Americans fell, the Women's World Cup was a joy to experience – and clubs around the world will build off of it, as they do each cycle.
Concacaf Champions Cup qualification got a tiny bit harder after Miami and Houston advanced to the final of the U.S. Open Cup. With Inter Messi CF already qualifying through Leagues Cup, the Houston Dynamo are now in the 2024 edition of what used to be called the Concacaf Champions League. Miami, Vancouver, Houston, Nashville and Philadelphia have already qualified from MLS. The MLS Cup winner, the West winner and the next best two teams in the Shield standings will also make the 2024 Champions Cup. Related, no one knows which cities are hosting the 2025 Club World Cup, which will feature the Seattle Sounders.
Puget Sound Soccer
It's a busy weekend for the area's pro soccer teams. Plus a couple other matches to watch
Defiance play at Minnesota United 2 at 5 pm PT on MLSNextPro.com and the MLS YouTube channel. Wade Webber's team is currently 7th in the Power Rankings. They cannot qualify for the playoffs this weekend (other teams can). Watch this one because you'll have a good guess as to how much the Sounders' lineup will change.
7:30 pm PT – Portland Timbers vs Vancouver Whitecaps is on MLS Season Pass. Sounders fans should watch this because Portland can win the Cascadia Cup in a year when they fired their coach.
Sunday is busy
The UW Husky men and women play a single-ticket double header.
Sounders are at Minnesota United. This one is being simulcast on FOX and coverage starts at 1:30 pm PT, so expect first kick at 1:55 pm.
Reign are at Angel City at 5 pm PT on Paramount+. This is a big opportunity for the Reign to shake off their regular-season funk with all of their national teamers finally back in the fold. There will be a huge crowd, even though Angel City is bad.