The Seattle Sounders’ 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs campaign kicks off on Monday night against FC Dallas. We took a look back at the whole season and found five things that define the Sounders’ for this playoff run.
Goals are hard to come by
We'll start off with the one big flaw for the Sounders this season. Their 41-goal tally for the regular season is tied for the second lowest among teams in the Western Conference playoffs. They've only managed to score more than one goal in a game 12 times this season. This, of course, is largely do to the main man Raul Ruidíaz being injured for most of the season.
If you're looking for some good news or an uptick, look no further than this nine-game unbeaten run the Sounders have been on. Five of their 12 multi-goal games have come in this run and they've only allowed their opponents to score twice once. More good news? Seven of Jordan Morris' 11 goals this season have come when he's playing striker, the position he’s most often playing now.
Cristian Roldan is important
Soccer is a profoundly complex sport that's made extremely simple with one truth: the Sounders are a good team with Cristian Roldan and they're a bad team without him. I wish I could explain this differently. I wish there was more to it. The secret sauce isn't that secret. The Sounders are a legitimate MLS Cup contender when Roldan starts and they are a team that doesn't belong in the playoffs without him. The Sounders’ record with Roldan in the starting lineup is 8-1-5. Their record when he doesn’t start is 6-8-6.
The hallmark of this season has been Seattle's defending. Even when things were going sideways this summer, the Sounders were still defending well. They have the league's best defense, allowing 32 goals (tied with Nashville) and leading the league with 14 shutouts. The more advanced metrics love them, too, as they a league best 32.2 expected goals allowed.
One of the oldest sports adages is that defense wins championships and it's very clear the Sounders have a championship-worthy defense. It's what they do with it that matters.
One last hurrah
We more or less received confirmation this week that Nico Lodeiro will be leaving the club this offseason (there’s still a chance he changes his mind, obviously). There will be plenty of time to eulogize his time with the Sounders after the season, but there are playoff games to win and a trophy to look forward to.
The current role that Lodeiro is playing for the Sounders is perfectly suited for where he is at in his career. I don't necessarily blame him for begrudgingly accepting it, he is an elite athlete after all, but having peak Lodeiro for 30-45 minutes of a match is a total game changer for Seattle. Having the ability to completely control a match with the lead or push for a goal with his creativity is an ace up the sleeve of Brian Schmetzer. I'd even go as far to say that no other team has an impact sub at Lodeiro's level.
Anything can happen
The reason why qualifying for the playoffs is the knowledge that anything can happen. This is true in most sports but it is especially true in MLS, and no other fan base knows that quite like we do. Win an MLS Cup without taking a shot on goal six months after firing a legendary head coach? Sure. Lose on a penalty shootout at home in the first round to a team that didn’t even attempt a shot because their goalkeeper had an insane game? Sure, we've done that, too. Nearly blow a winnable match against FC Dallas, win in extra time, and go on a dominant run to win MLS Cup? Yep. That's happened.
Look, not a lot of people will argue with you about this season being sort of underwhelming and weird. But let's win MLS Cup and argue all of season about it. Sound good?