With ‘obligation’ to make postseason fulfilled, Seattle Sounders gearing up for another championship run

Death, taxes and the Seattle Sounders qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs.

The Rave Green defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 on Tuesday to clinch their 12th consecutive trip to the postseason, extending their own Major League Soccer record. Head Coach Brian Schmetzer’s side leapfrogged back into first place in the Western Conference and became the first team in the West to book its playoff ticket, something that has become an expectation more than a celebration since the Sounders’ inaugural MLS season in 2009.

“It’s an obligation for the club to get to this point, so now it’s just a matter of moving forward,” said captain Nicolás Lodeiro, who had a goal and an assist on Tuesday. “It’s an honor for me to represent the team and the city. It’s great that we are in the playoffs again, it’s something that always motivates me. When one comes to this institution, they know that it’s important to think big and want to conquer big things.”

The Sounders received major contributions from returning internationals Raúl Ruidíaz, Gustav Svensson and Xavier Arreaga, all of whom had missed the previous four matches, in which Seattle went 1-1-2. Ruidíaz scored and had an assist, Svensson was solid all evening in defensive midfield and Arreaga helped keep a clean sheet while limiting Vancouver to zero shots on target.

The return of Arreaga, in particular, helps boost this Sounders defense, which has played incredibly well all season, conceding the third-fewest goals in MLS this year.

“I’m happy to be in the playoffs again,” said Arreaga. “I knew when I arrived here that this is an institution that fights for big things. That was a key and motivating element in my decision to join an institution this big that is always hungry for championships. I’m glad that I can contribute.”

With ‘obligation’ to make postseason fulfilled, Seattle Sounders gearing up for another championship run -

Seattle understands that Tuesday’s result was a stepping stone, not the ultimate goal, and it’s business as usual for Schmetzer & Co. as they prepare for the real work to begin in a few short weeks. The Sounders are the defending MLS Cup champions and have two titles in three finals appearances over the last four years. This habit of winning, both in recent history and since day one in 2009, is not lost on the organization, especially in a league that is designed for parity.

“The reason why we’ve been in the playoffs for 12 straight years…is because the players are always committed to themselves, they’re committed to their teammates, they’re committed to the fans, and it’s that type of culture that can drive, that can be successful, that can win championships,” said Schmetzer. “Even when things are tough, that group, they stick together. I’m awfully, awfully proud of this particular version of the Sounders, and I’m awfully proud of the club for the success that we’ve had in getting into the playoffs for 12 years.”

Take a cursory look around MLS and you’ll see just how difficult it is to find sustained success. Atlanta United won 2018 MLS Cup and came within a match of making it back to the 2019 title match. This year, they’re on the brink of missing the playoffs entirely. Toronto FC, who the Sounders have played in each of their three MLS Cup finals, have been spectacular in the last six years, but missed the playoffs in each of their first eight seasons.

That the Sounders continue to reload and perennially compete for trophies, even as the league continues to expand in both size and talent, is a testament to just how well-run the organization is from the ground up.

“There are a lot of good coaches in this league,” Schmetzer said. “There are a lot of tremendous players in this league. It’s hard. That’s what makes 12 years in a row so special.”

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