Sunday’s gutsy win over the Whitecaps marked the day the Seattle Sounders’ ambitions of qualifying for the playoffs were officially no longer just a hopeful fantasy.
With everything else that was going on over the weekend, it almost seemed like the Seattle Sounders were an afterthought. The Huskies had their top-10 showdown with Stanford, the Mariners were fighting for their postseason lives and the Seahawks were looking to enter the bye with a winning record.
Regardless, Sunday was the day the rest of MLS sat up and took notice. It was the day when it became clear the Rave Green’s playoff ambitions were no longer just a hopeful fantasy.
Admittedly, this process had started the weekend before, with the Sounders’ stunning 4-2 victory against the Galaxy. That win marked the first time they had triumphed in Los Angeles since their inaugural season, back in 2009.
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However, you could argue Sunday’s 2-1 win in Vancouver was just as impressive, coming against a desperate Whitecaps with their backs against the wall. Now, throw in the fact the Sounders were playing without Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro and Andreas Ivanschitz.
Taking all of this into account, there can be no remaining doubts about the mental fortitude of this team. Make no mistake about it – the Sounders are for real.
No longer is this the franchise which started the season with three consecutive losses. No more are you looking at a team which found itself 10 points out of a playoff place when its longtime Sigi Schmid agreed to step down.
What’s even more remarkable is that the Sounders are now in a position where they could realistically host a playoff game in the knockout round. You really do have to wonder how much longer Brian Schmetzer will have the ‘interim’ tag attached to his title as head coach.
One of the impressive things Schmetzer has given the team — and there are many — is the belief that they are never out of a game. For the second straight week, the Sounders found themselves a goal down on the road, but it didn’t matter.
Speaking to The Seattle Times‘ Matt Pentz and the rest of the media, Schmetzer said: “I’ve been pretty consistent with the story that I’ve given them ownership of the team.
“That is something that they believe in – I’ve gotten traction with that. Even when we go down a goal here, or in L.A., they have the belief in themselves and in their teammates that they can come back and make games competitive.”
It also helps that Schmetzer refused to use the loss of three of his regular starters as an excuse: “I told them before the game, it didn’t matter to me that Lodeiro was gone, that Dempsey was gone.
“Guys have to step up. Guys have to come in and do their jobs. Yes, we miss Clint, yes, we miss Nico, but we’re strong enough as a group that we found a way to win.”
It is worth noting that nothing is guaranteed yet, with the Sounders still needing four points to officially secure qualification. In addition, they could be missing some of their international call-ups for their next game (as well as Brad Evans, if his red card against Vancouver isn’t rescinded).
However, if Sunday is anything to go by, it won’t matter to a team currently in a rich vein of form. The Sounders are back to where they belong, and they’re going to take some stopping.
What was your main takeaway from Sunday’s win in Vancouver? Looking ahead, what are your predictions for the Sounders’ final three games of the regular season? Let us know in the comments section below.