Seattle Sounders in playoff-pressure mode: “Almost a do-or-die situation”


Share This Post

or copy the link

Going into their final five matches of the 2022 MLS season, Seattle Sounders FC are looking to avoid making the wrong type of history.

Seattle have made the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons dating back to their MLS expansion season of 2009, a remarkable show of consistency in a league often defined by parity. But ahead of Saturday’s clash with second-place Austin FC at Lumen Field (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), that streak is in major jeopardy, with Seattle six points below the Western Conference’s cutoff line going into Week 30.

In other words, every match is do-or-die from here on out.

“Every game from now on is kind of like a final for us,” forward Jordan Morris said at training this week. “We really need to keep stringing wins together to put ourselves back above the line.”

Seattle’s season got off to a dream start, becoming the first MLS club to win the modern incarnation of Concacaf Champions League back in May, when they dominated Liga MX’s Pumas UNAM in a memorable second leg at before a historic home crowd.

But they’ve paid the price in league play ever since, never really regaining that CCL form while dropping valuable points often in gut-wrenching fashion. Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said his team is acutely aware of the situation in which they now find themselves, staring down the prospect of becoming the first Seattle team to ever miss out on the postseason.

“We are a proud franchise, we’re a good franchise,” Schmetzer said. “We’ve been in the playoffs all 13 years. We don’t want that streak to end. The players feel that. We as coaches understand that. The fans understand it. So they’re working extra hard to make sure that we can try and keep that streak alive.

“Is that pressure? Yes, but I think the pressure comes each individual game. I don’t think they’re thinking about the whole year yet. They’re just thinking about Austin.”

Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei has been part of two MLS Cup-winning teams in Seattle (2016, ’19), which dates back to 2014 when he arrived from Toronto FC via trade. While his team might have their backs against the wall, Frei said there should be plenty of motivation internally to avoid the unfamiliar scenario of an early end to the season.

“At this point, we’re almost mathematically there,” Frei said. “You don’t want to be part of the first team to not make the playoffs for the Sounders. I don’t say that lightly. And we’re finding ourselves very close to, unfortunately, making that history. I certainly don’t want to be part of it and I try to convey that message to players who haven’t been here long enough or who are young and don’t understand the history of it.

“But it also sucks. For someone who has never had to experience it, it sucks to sit out and watch other teams play playoff football. I think you have that feeling once and you never want to experience it again.”

Seattle are coming off a potentially momentum-shifting result in Week 29, when they came back from an early deficit to knock off Houston Dynamo FC 2-1 at Lumen Field on the strength of Nouhou’s first MLS goal and a game-winner from Fredy Montero.

Whether that turns out to be the moment the tides turned or a blip in a lost league season remains to be seen. It’s up to the players to make sure it’s the former and not the latter, Frei said.

“If you want to gain any kind of push and get on your horse and make it happen, then we have to take advantage of finding a good result in the last [stretch] and stringing now a couple of good results together,” he said, adding it’s “almost a do-or-die situation.”

Top storylines heading into Week 30 of MLS action | Headlines

Seattle Sounders in playoff-pressure mode: “Almost a do-or-die situation”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *