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Six-day, two-city road trip gives Sounders chance to bond

Jordan Morris says team needs to come together after disastrous start.

Last Updated
3 min read

RENTON — For the next six days, the Seattle Sounders will be on the East Coast as they prepare to play D.C. United on Saturday and resume their previously postponed match against the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday.

Off to their worst-ever start through eight matches — 1-4-3 — the Sounders desperately need points and will have their hands full.

United are just 2-3-4 but their underlying numbers suggest they’ve been a bit better than that. At +2.8 expected goal-difference, United are second best in the Eastern Conference. They’ve also got one of the league’s leading scorers in Christian Benteke (six goals) and the most active defense in the league (9.3 passes per defensive action).

A few days later, the Sounders will travel about three hours north to Philadelphia, where they'll will resume the match that officially started on March 9. The Union, who were then in the midst of Concacaf Champions Cup, have since gone 3-0-2 and lead the Eastern Conference with 1.86 points per game.

While there’s a distinct possibility the Sounders could return home in even worse shape than they are now, there’s also the potential for this to be a galvanizing experience.

“It’s good to be together as a group for an extended period of time,” Sounders attacker Jordan Morris told reporters this week. “That could be helpful in terms of bonding together. Sometimes on the road, you have to scrap for results.”

Morris admitted that the Sounders borderline disastrous start has caused its share of frustrations. He called the most recent loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps “unacceptable” and acknowledged that the road back will be tough. But a players-only meeting on Tuesday was designed to address that, with an emphasis on the team remaining together as a group.

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“We don’t see that on the field right now,” Morris said about the meeting. “We’re playing more as individuals instead of a collective. We’re at our best when we’re a collective group. A lot of the messaging is being more united, being more together. That’s the only way we get out of this, being together as a group, players, coaches, everyone. To work as hard as they can to pull ourselves out of this situation. The main message is be united as a group, work hard for each other, celebrate the little things and get back to what made us good.”

For inspiration, the Sounders only need to look at their past. In 2016, they were on just 20 points through 20 games before turning the season around and winning their first-ever MLS Cup. A year later, they were just 2-5-4 through 11 games before going on a run that culminated with another trip to the MLS Cup final. In 2018, the Sounders were 3-9-3 through 15 games and then finished on a 15-2-2 kick.

“Obviously, we don’t want to get to that point,” Morris said. “There’s everything to play for. We have to take it game by game, with a tough road trip ahead. It’s not going to get any easier and it’s up to use to turn it around.”

A different kind of three-game week

While the Sounders have played plenty of three-game weeks, none of have been quite like this.

“Normally in a three-game week, you have a group that starts, you make some changes and then see what the last game gives you,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer explained. “This time, it’s kinda different. We know the midweek lineup, so maybe you have to shuffle the first game, but you know it’s the first game of many so you want to put out a good team and collect some points.”

Adding one more wrinkle to the week is the trade of Xavier Arreaga, who otherwise would have played against the Union. With Arreaga no longer available, he can be replaced in the starting lineup by anyone who was on the matchday roster when the game began (that’s most likely going to be Yeimar Gomez Andrade). Correspondingly, the Sounders can also fill that now-open bench spot with anyone who was on the roster that day (João Paulo and Albert Rusnák are the two most likely candidates).

As a reminder, here’s how the lineup actually looked when the Union game began: