The Seattle Sounders travelled to Texas and Colorado this week and left with four points. Here are five things we saw from those two matches that left us feeling better than before.
A starting XI that works
The Sounders have been struggling in the first halves of matches lately, largely because their starting XI has been sort of set up poorly. That wasn't true on Wednesday night against the Rapids. Seattle was on the front foot from the word go, in large part because of the way the front six for the Sounders intended to play.
I think this combination of midfielders, wide players, and forward is going to be the best the Sounders have for the rest of the season. I know they were playing against the Rapids, but the balance of control and positivity going forward in the first half was so encouraging. At the heart of the Sounders play was Josh Atencio, who won 7 of his 8 duels to go with 2 successful tackles and 4 ball recoveries.
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The biggest enemy is ourselves
The Sounders have gotten in their own way recently. Against FC Dallas, it was a defensive mistake that led to Dallas' only good opportunity of the game and goal. Against Colorado, it was a similar story. The Sounders got sloppy and relinquished control of the match. The Rapids were able to pull one back and were pushing for an equalizer in these circumstances.
If the Sounders can cut out the mental mistakes and sloppy play, they'll be able to control matches much better.
Cristian Roldan is our most important player
To think, people used to take Roldan for granted as a Sounder. Wednesday night showed that Seattle are a completely different attacking proposition with Roldan in the team. He's a dynamic winger who can make runs in behind to test the defense, but his greatest strength, perhaps, is his improvising skills. Those were on display to create the cross that led to Albert Rusnak's goal. In his first start in over two months, he was able to create four chances, the most in the match.
Have we turned a corner?
I'll be the first to admit that I've been pretty down on the Sounders lately. The vibes have been really stale and the play on the field has been pretty boring. It feels like Seattle has been in survival mode for months now and it's been really tiring. However, they're unbeaten in five and the win on Wednesday night was a boost to morale.
I'm not saying everything is fixed because of a win over the last-place Rapids, but it can be the start of shifting the vibes. One win in 5 with 4 draws feels a whole lot different than being five unbeaten with two wins, which is what they actually have. One feels like things are about to slip and the other feels like a platform for the team to build a bit of form on heading into the playoffs.
The West is there to win
You know the saying "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth"? Well, the Sounders are in striking distance of winning the Western Conference after that feat felt all but impossible just a month ago. After their win last night, the Sounders sit five points off of first place with four matches to play...and they happen to play St. Louis City on the final day. Here's the record breakdown of STL, SEA, and LAFC following the return to MLS play after the Leagues Cup:
Seattle: 9 points, 2-1-3, 0 GD
St. Louis: 9 points, 2-2-3, +2 GD
LAFC: 7 points, 2-3-1, +1 GD
I'm going to spare us going through all of the math involved to explain out the scenarios required for the Sounders to finish in first, because it's probably too soon to be doing that, but I will refer to the second point in of this column – the Sounders’ biggest enemy right now is themselves. If they can get out of their own way and string together some wins while putting points on the board, anything is possible this season.