After everything that has happened during an extremely bizarre year for the Seattle Sounders, qualifying for the MLS Cup final seems appropriate.
The Seattle Sounders are in the MLS Cup final – just writing those words seems strange. However, qualifying for Major League Soccer’s showcase event is somewhat fitting, after everything the team has been through in 2016.
When the Sounders started the campaign with a franchise-record three consecutive losses, you just knew it was going to be a bizarre year. But for most of the regular season, there was no indication this would include being in a position to lift their first ever MLS Cup.
Certainly, after the Rave Green parted company with Sigi Schmid, even qualifying for the playoffs seemed like a fantasy. When Schmid left, the team was in ninth place in the Western Conference, 10 points off the pace for a postseason spot.
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And when Clint Dempsey was ruled out for the remainder of the campaign, fans dared not believe this was the season they would finally make it all the way to the final. Fortunately for the Sounders faithful, Scmid’s replacement turned out to be just what the franchise needed.
When Brian Schmetzer took over the head coaching role, his impact was immediate. He put more responsibility on the players, who responded positively to the extra trust and gained an unbreakable resolve.
Of course, it helped that Schmetzer’s promotion into the role coincided with the arrival of a certain Nicolas Lodeiro, who inspired his new teammates, particularly Jordan Morris. Regardless, the Sounders’ long time assistant galvanized a squad which had reportedly lost faith in Schmid.
As a result, the Sounders went on a fantastic run to end the regular season, winning eight of their final 14 games and losing just twice in the process. Including the playoffs, Schmetzer has a record of 11-3-4 heading into next month’s final.
All that remains now is to find out where the MLS Cup final will be played. Of course, the coaches, players and fans hope the game takes place in Seattle, which will be the case if the Montreal Impact win the Eastern Conference Championship.
However, with all the adversity the Sounders have been through this season, you could argue they are destined for one more challenge, by having to play in Toronto. Either way, the confidence is now there that the team will rise to the occasion, something which you couldn’t have said back in July.
At what point this season did you start to believe the Sounders genuinely had a chance to play in the MLS Cup final? Further, what is your outstanding memory from one of the strangest year’s in franchise history? Share your thoughts in the comments section.