The Sounders FC has motored through most of the 2011 season, powering through the many bumps in the road they’ve encountered along the way.
Perseverance in the face of adversity has been the theme of the season as they’ve faced slow starts, major injuries and a whirlwind schedule, yet still found themselves with the second-best record in MLS, they advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals and won their third straight US Open Cup title.
Now, their path is the darkest though, as they fell behind 3-0 to Real Salt Lake in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal series Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
With the club now desperate for a win – and a big win at that, as they will need to outscore the third-best team in MLS by four goals to advance – the team finds themselves with one more consistent theme.
“We dug ourselves into a hole, but if any team can come back I believe it’s us,” forward Mike Fucito said.
A victory of that magnitude would not be unprecedented for the Sounders FC.
Three times since August 16, they have outscored their opponents by three goals or more. And two of those wins came against substantial opponents in the Columbus Crew, who were a playoff team in MLS this year, and Comunicaciones from Guatemala, who narrowly missed advancement to the Champions League quarterfinals themselves.
Conversely, Real Salt Lake has lost by three goals or more three times since September 24. Those defats have come against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Chicago Fire and DC United, none of whom made the playoffs this season.
“Why not?” Fredy Montero said. “They won 3-0. Why can’t we do the same?”
The players know they have a tough task ahead of them. They know that RSL is no slouch. And they know that over 35,000 fans will pack CenturyLink Field on Wednesday with the same hope that they have.
“It’s two games and it’s not over until it’s over. We’ll come out on Wednesday and try to get the first goal and just go from there,” Sammy Ochoa said. “We’ve got the players for it. The team is excited to get the game down there and have the chance to get the win.”
Added Fucito, “We have a lot to be upset about, but come (Sunday) we’ve got to put it behind us and do whatever it takes to turn the table the other way.”
Add one more theme to the Sounders FC’s 2011 season.