TUKWILA, Wash. – Coming off one of their most frustrating results of the season – a 2-2 tie at home against the Portland Timbers after they led 2-0 – the Seattle Sounders have a bit more time than they’d probably like to stew. Wednesday’s training session was the first of eight before their next match on Sept. 16 against FC Dallas.
The day was spent mostly playing short-sided games on condensed fields.
Despite the frustrating result, there was no lack of energy in the session. Although the mood at training never seemed to noticeably drop, several players had noted that the mood around the club had not been great in recent months. The result against the Timbers may have not been what the Sounders wanted, but there was an appreciation for the improved play over the last week in which they led all three matches and claimed five points. The results were enough to push the Sounders into second place in the Western Conference.
“After the last three games the team is in a better place than we were a couple of months ago,” Sounders midfielder Josh Atencio told Sounder at Heart. “We are in a place right now where we can really make a push to turn things around from where it was in the middle of the season and gain some momentum in these last 6-9 games to spark us into playoffs.”
Atencio was at least part of the reason why. The midfielder logged a solid 90-minute shift in the 2-1 win over Austin FC and then played 19 minutes on Saturday to help the Sounders at least maintain the tie.
Prior to last week, the Sounders had scored multiple goals in a game just twice in the span of 18 matches and had only even scored in consecutive games once in their previous 12. The tie with the Timbers marked their second straight multi-goal game and gave them a streak of three straight with a goal.
Baby steps? Sure, but it’s a start.
“The results don’t always paint the exact picture,” Atencio added. “If you watch the games from a few months ago and how we played last week, it’s night and day with the energy and the confidence we’re playing with.”
In addition to posting an apology on his Instagram account, Léo Chú also issued a mea culpa to his teammates after his ejection helped spark the Timbers’ turnaround. Although the second yellow Chú received was questionable, it only mattered because he had picked up an unnecessary yellow earlier in the match when he celebrated scoring a goal by removing his shirt.
“To his credit, he apologized to his teammates outside of the initial meeting right after the game,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “He has to man up. Even in tough situations he has to man up.”
Similarly, during an interview on Sounders Weekly, Obed Vargas took responsibility on the two goals allowed. Vargas had been charged with marking Dairon Asprilla on the first goal, and had a chance to win a ball at midfield prior to Evander’s goal.
Schmetzer thought Vargas was probably being a bit harsh on himself – noting that he felt there was plenty of blame to go around on the second one in particular – but was still happy to see the maturity.
“Him and Nouhou were paired up,” Schmetzer said of the first goal. “They were watching the flight of ball instead of the man. But accepting responsibility, that’s a good life lesson.”
For the second time in three games against the Timbers, the Sounders fell apart during a relatively short sequence. Earlier this season, the Sounders turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 deficit during a 10-minute stretch.
“I don’t know if there’s anything to it,” Schmetzer said. “What is their psyche when they take a goal?”
More than the goals they allowed, Schmetzer was disappointed with the way the Sounders played coming out of halftime. He noted that their kickoff play was designed to pin the Timbers deep in their own end, but that the follow through was a little lackadaisical, setting a tone for the next eight minutes.
“That’s on me as a coach,” he said. “We have to have them ready to go, but they have to execute.”