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Postgame Pontifications: Reasons to believe

After a seven-point week, the Sounders are finally playing the type of soccer we expected of them.

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3 min read
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — Only with the benefit of hindsight are we ever able to say with any kind of certainly when a season’s fortunes turned for better or worse.

But if the Seattle Sounders end up doing anything of note this year, I have a sneaky suspicion that this will be the week we point to for when it really started to click.

It started at what certainly felt like a low point, coming into the week off a dispiriting 2-1 loss to lowly Sporting KC. The Sounders responded by putting together their most comprehensive win of the season, a 2-0 domination of Minnesota United. At midweek, they rotated the lineup, played arguably their worst half of soccer all year, fell behind 2-0 and still managed to pull out a 2-2 tie.

Saturday’s match against FC Dallas seemed to combine all of that. Seattle seemed to be firmly in control through 65 minutes, only for two defensive mistakes just a few minutes apart put them in another 2-0 hole. At that point, it felt like all the work the Sounders had done over the past two months to get their season somewhat back on track was about to completely unravel.

Only it didn’t. Rather than sulk, the Sounders responded with quite possibly their most inspired 20-odd minutes of the season. First it was Raúl Ruidíaz doing what we’ve wanted him to do all year – making a late run into the box and finishing a perfectly-placed header to make it 2-1. About 10 minutes later, Jordan Morris followed up with another type of goal we’ve been waiting to see all year, a header off of a corner.

I think that probably would have been enough to keep the Sounders’ momentum going, but what they did next is what makes this feel like more of a genuine shift. After intercepting a pass near midfield, Obed Vargas spotted Morris making a run. His pass traveled about 30 yards on the deck, perfectly weighted to allow Morris to pick it up without breaking stride. With defenders closing in, Morris took three touches before opening up his hips and sort of floating it past the onrushing Maarten Paes.

Morris made a beeline for the corner, where he celebrated with anyone he could find before being mobbed by his teammates.

The eruption of cheers from the fans who stuck around seemed far louder than they had any right to be. A 3-2 midseason win over a pretty bad FC Dallas team might not seem big on paper, but moments like this have been so few and far between since the 2022 Concacaf Champions League title that this explosion of energy felt especially pent up.

“It was a great ending to a great game,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said in the postgame press conference. “We’re still not where we should be, but if we take care of our own business we will get there.”

Despite picking up seven points in the last week or so, the Sounders are still sitting just outside of the playoff picture. They are tied on points with No. 9 Vancouver Whitecaps, but have one less win and have played two additional games. But the gap between the Sounders at No. 10 and Minnesota United at No. 5 is just four points. After a week like this, it doesn’t even seem that far-fetched to think the Sounders can make up the six points it would require to catch the Colorado Rapids at No. 4.

Even though the Sounders have actually been picking up results at a pretty decent clip over their last 11 games — their 19 points in that span is more than all but six teams — it really wasn’t until these last three matches that there was any genuine sense of sustainable momentum.

No one is going to confuse the Sounders for an offensive juggernaut, but this was the third straight game in which they scored multiple goals and they’ve now managed to pull that off six times during this 11-game run. They’ve scored 17 goals during this stretch, after scoring just eight in their first nine games.

“We just have a belief now,” said Morris, who has now scored six goals in his past seven games after scoring just one in his first 13. “We’ve had it all season, but things are starting to fall now. We know we have the quality to compete for trophies. The team keeps fighting and there’s no quit in this group.”

For probably the first time this year, statements like that are starting to feel like more than positive self talk. The Sounders are playing like a team that finally believes in itself. With four more home games over their next five matches leading into Leagues Cup, it couldn’t come at a better time.