The Seattle Sounders had a golden opportunity to finally get a leg up on the Portland Timbers on Saturday, but in the span of two minutes and two goals, those hopes evaporated. Here's what we saw from the Sounders 2-2 draw with the Timbers.
Questions about management
One of a coaches biggest responsibilities is putting his players in a position to succeed. In that sense, I think Brian Schmetzer deserves his share of blame for Léo Chú getting sent off.
Before Chú scored in the first half, the referee had given him a warning about persistent infringement. He was always likely to receive a yellow card for his next foul, and it was not very likely he'd go over an hour without picking up another foul. So, when he receives a yellow card for taking off his shirt in the 30th minute, the head coach has to take all of this into account when trying to win the game.
After the game Schmetzer said it would've been "pretty harsh" to sub off Chú at halftime, however, it would have been the right call. Sometimes coaches need to make harsh calls for the better of the game. That didn't happen on Saturday.
Chú needs to be smarter
With that said, Chú also deserves every ounce of criticism that's coming his way after being sent off. I know the knee-jerk reaction is to blame referees for stupid things like this, but I think that misses the point entirely. Chú's second yellow was for a pretty soft foul, however, the referee already gave him ample warning. It was a challenge he didn't need to make and it allowed for external factors to control a situation.
On top of that, taking your shirt off after scoring in the 30th minute is very silly, to put it lightly. And to do it after the ref has warned you for your fouls? Just plain stupid. Schmetzer said to the press after the game that he has more faith in Chú to not pick up those yellows, but it seems like that faith is possibly misplaced.
Is this even a rivalry still?
Saturday night was the sixth straight match that the Sounders failed to beat the Timbers. What's worse, is Seattle has failed to beat Portland at Lumen Field in MLS play since May 27, 2017. I know from a technical statistical ruling, the Sounders "won" the second leg of the playoff match in 2018, but spiritually they definitely lost because the Timbers advanced from that game in the penalty shootout. Barring a meeting in the playoffs this season, that's six years without home fans seeing a victory over their most bitter rival.
At this point, it's not even a rivalry. To go from winning 6-2 at Providence Park to not beating the Timbers at all in two years. It's not just they haven't beaten them, it's that the Sounders have also been a significantly better team over that period and still can't seem to beat them. Just last week the Timbers fired Gio Savarese, the head coach that had Seattle's number and the Sounders still couldn't find a way to beat the interim head coach.
Just a few weeks to right the wrongs
The Sounders have had a couple of opportunities to "reset" the vibes this season and haven't really taken advantage of it. Well, this international break might very well be the last break in the season for them to do so. Seattle doesn't play again until Sept. 16, away to Dallas. Including that game, they have six games remaining in the season to right their wrongs and find some form before heading into the playoffs.
From where I sit, I see two different primary outcomes. The first outcome is that the Sounders find a way to package up their flaws and strengths, dig deep, and go on one last ride together. Regardless of what happens this season, it does appear that this roster is due for some serious upheaval this winter. Could they put it together one last time for something special?
This is who they are
The second outcome I see is just this. They're a deeply flawed team and that's just that. There's no romantic uptick in form, perhaps they do just enough to qualify for a home playoff series, and maybe they do something in the playoffs. Maybe they just gracefully exit the playoffs and that's that. We know the rest of the Western Conference is much worse than however flawed this Sounders team is, so maybe they catch some luck and do something with it. I don't know. Stranger things have happened.