The Sounders have had an impressive season this year. They have a record of 12-11-9 and sit in a three way tie for second place with 47 points alongside the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City. The Vancouver Whitecaps are sitting at the top of the standings at 51 points in the Western Conference.
The Seattle Sounders prepare for playoffs following their 2016 MLS Championship title.
Last year, the Sounders were in a completely different position. They were struggling to get into playoff position as they started with a losing record, putting them in last place in the Western Conference during the middle of the season. Sounders fans were doubtful that they were going to see their team make the playoffs. The Sounders suffered a huge blow with top goal scorer Clint Dempsey out with an irregular heartbeat for the majority of the 2016 season.
With the Sounders’ season looking disorganized, something needed to change. The program finally came to the decision to relieve Sigi Schmid of his head coaching duties and replace him with interim head coach Brian Schmetzer. Soon after this coaching change, the Sounders picked up Uruguayan National Team Midfielder Nicholas Loderio to help with the Sounders offense.
This was the change that Seattle needed. They had the talent, but they didn’t have the correct coaching, along with the missing offensive puzzle piece that they needed to make plays and score goals. After this change was made, the Sounders finished their “Cinderella” season that shocked everyone, by becoming MLS Champions.
Due to the changes that were made last year, it developed a good building block for the team as they headed into their 2017 season. A familiar face made his way back into the starting line up; Dempsey was finally back on the roster and cleared to play. With the attacking players that the Sounders currently possess, it makes developing a starting lineup hard for Schmetzer.
The Sounders currently have a powerhouse attacking combination of Dempsey, Loderio and Jordan Morris that seemed to be the blend that the team was needing. Unfortunately, Morris injured his hamstring Sept. 10 against LA Galaxy. However, the Sounders have the depth that they need in order to keep them in playoff position. Will Bruin is a strong integral component to their attack coming off the bench, along with Federal Way native Lamar Neagal who has recently came back to the Sounders after spending a couple seasons with DC United. Christian Roldan has also been a key playmaker, securing a starting spot in the midfield.
Seattle also has a durable defensive lineup. With a world class goalkeeper like Stephen Frei protecting the goal, it’s hard for opponents to get the ball past him. A strong finish to Frei’s 2016 MLS season ended with him being named MLS Cup MVP when he came up with the saves that gave the Sounders their MLS Cup.
Veteran center defenders Chad Marshall and Roman Torres are players who keep the backline organized, and make it difficult for attacking players to reach the goal. Left back Joevin Jones also makes things challenging for outside midfielders. They struggle to get a cross in to forwards trying to get a touch on the ball in front of goal.
The Sounders have two games left in the regular season. The first is against FC Dallas, who is currently sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference, barely putting them in playoff position. With FC Dallas being on the verge of not making a playoff run, Dallas will come out strong and ready to play.
However, seven key players on the squad have gotten called up to represent their countries as they try and qualify for Russia 2018, which is where the World Cup soccer stage is set to happen. The players that have been called up are Clint Dempsey (USA), Nicolás Lodeiro (Uruguay), Román Torres (Panama), Joevin Jones (Trinidad & Tobago), Gustav Svensson (Sweden) and Nouhou Tolo (Cameroon). This can be a setback for the Sounders as key players will be missing from their lineup.
Nonetheless, FC Dallas will also be missing some important players from their lineup for Sunday’s game as well. They will be without Kellyn Acosta (USA) and Maynor Figueroa (Honduras). The USMNT is set to have their final World Cup Qualifying game Oct. 10 against Trinidad and Tobago. This will allow some of the key USMNT players to return to their clubs as they set for their playoff runs. Hopefully, this will give the players enough time to rest up and get back on the pitch to help their teams.
The Sounders have a fighting chance to make the playoffs once again this season. With a lot to live up to from the previous year, there are eyes watching to see if they will fall or rise to the occasion.
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