The Seattle Sounders face arguably their most crucial period of the season, as the next eight days will likely reveal how realistic their ambitions are of making the playoffs.
That the Seattle Sounders are even still in the playoff conversation, is a minor miracle in some respects. For that, a large part of the credit must go to Nicolas Lodeiro, who has been a revelation since arriving in the Pacific Northwest.
With a trio of assists and a goal in his three appearances, Lodeiro has injected new life into the Sounders’ season. Now though, the team enters arguably their most important stretch of the season, which will go a long way towards determining their fate.
This stretch involves playing three games in eight days, including two clashes with their arch rivals, the Portland Timbers. Throw in a trip to play the Houston Dynamo, and Seattle will know soon enough if a playoff spot is still a realistic goal.
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Sounders captain Brad Evans spoke to the media about playing three games in such a short period of time: “Obviously it’s a big week for us going into a bye, with a lot at stake.
“The last thing we want to do is go into a bye week with a bitter taste in our mouths. A lot of work has been put in by the guys and we know what’s at stake.”
The Sounders never need any extra motivation to play the Timbers. However, the two upcoming clashes take on even more importance, with the reigning MLS Cup champions hanging on for dear life to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Evans said: “They smashed us in Portland a few weeks ago, so there’s a lot on the table for us…We’re in a situation now, where we need points.
“It happens to be a rivalry game too, so that adds a bit more spice to it. The bottom line though is this group is focused, we’re at home with our fans and the performance we put on down in Portland, we have something to (prove).”
Brian Schmetzer also discussed the upcoming clash with the Timbers, his first derby as interim head coach: “It’ll be a difficult game…but we’ll be ready.
“I think (we’ve) been playing well and I don’t think I have to do any extra – the motivation is already there, just because of the situation we find ourselves in. Certainly though, there is a little bit of added punch to training, and hopefully that runs through until the game.”
While Lodeiro will understandably play a significant role in the upcoming stretch, the Sounders will also need other players to step up. This includes Jordan Morris, who leads the team in scoring and is also tied for third in assists.
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Things didn’t go well for the striker during his first game against Portland, but he’s ready for the renewal of hostilities. Morris said: “We’re excited to play, we’ve learned from the mistakes we made last time.
“I think we’re playing really well right now and we know the implications of this game. We need three points, so it should be fun.”
Fun isn’t really a word you can associate with the way this season has gone so far for Seattle. Regardless, they seem to have found their form just in time and are also helped by having games in hand on most of the teams above them in the standings.
Overall, when you look at the Sounders roster, the talent indicates they should not be in ninth place in the Western Conference. However, the table never lies, so it is up to Schmetzer’s men to prove they deserve to be higher up the table, starting with these next three games.
Okay – prediction time. What are you expecting from the Sounders in their next three games? Will they still have realistic hopes of making the playoffs eight days from now? Let us know in the comments section below.