Seattle Sounders show their mettle with second road rally in a week

VANCOUVER — By all accounts, a Seattle Sounders loss in their road match against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday would have been an expected, if not reasonable, result.

Consider the factors against them: Clint Dempsey is gone for the year, Nicolas Lodeiro was suspended because of yellow-card accumulation, Andreas Ivanschitz was a late scratch due to a neck strain, and all before Alvaro Fernandez exited with a strained left hamstring in the ninth minute.

The squad was run so thin that it had to call recently reactivated forward Aaron Kovar at 11 p.m. on Saturday night and fly him to Vancouver early Sunday morning as a precaution.

This was also a match which the Sounders didn’t even really need to win, which is a remarkable statement this late in the year for a team that was in the Western Conference basement for the first two-thirds of the season. The Portland Timbers lost on Saturday. Sporting Kansas City did too, and the Sounders have a game in hand on both of them. A draw would have been an ideal result given the circumstances, but this team no longer sports that mentality.

Not anymore. Not with Brian Schmetzer as interim head coach.

“I told the guys before the game that it didn’t matter to me if Lodeiro is gone, Dempsey is gone,” Schmetzer said. “Guys have to step up. Guys have to come in and do their jobs.”

The Sounders are now 7-1-3 since Schmetzer took the reins in late July following a 2-1 win Sunday over the Whitecaps, a run of form the club has only had a couple other times in its Major League Soccer existence. They’ve won four matches in a row for the first time all season and has a very realistic shot of not only making the playoffs, but hosting a Knockout Round game as the No. 4 seed.

A Cascadia road match without Lodeiro against a desperate team proved to serve as a litmus test for the caliber of just how gritty the revamped Sounders have become. They conceded in the 25th minute on Sunday, the sixth time in their last seven road matches they’ve conceded first. But for the second time in a week they responded with a win on the road they very likely wouldn’t have managed this summer.

Schmetzer gets a lot of credit for running a new 4-2-3-1 formation, as opposed to ex-boss Sigi Schmid’s 4-3-3.

But he deserves even more kudos for the way he’s instilled a confidence in his team to go out and find ways to win even in the most unlikely of situations.

Winning is often taught, and the Sounders are learning.

“Even when we go down a goal, whether here or in L.A., they have the belief in themselves and in their teammates that they can come back and make games competitive,” Schmetzer said. “Instilling that belief in the group wasn’t that difficult because it’s a proud group in there.”

Said Herculez Gomez: “Nobody believed we were the worst team when we were in that slump, nobody believes we’re the best team now. We’re even-keeled.”

Seattle has a bye weekend next week as it recovers from its three-games-in-eight-days stretch, which should give the injured or banged-up players extra time to recover for the last three matches of the season. The Sounders control their own destiny the rest of the way, starting with a home tilt against the last-place Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at CenturyLink Field.

In a way, Sunday’s result was a microcosm of the Sounders’ season: They went down early, reshuffled their formation from a 4-1-4-1 back to their 4-2-3-1 at halftime and then somehow, perhaps improbably, found a way to persevere.

Making the postseason is not a foregone conclusion yet, though, but if the team continues to put forth the gusty effort it displayed on Sunday night in Vancouver, things should be just fine.

“We’re going to take each game one game at a time,” Schmetzer said, “and where we end up in the standings will take care of itself.”



Grab your tickets and celebrate our 50th Anniversary Season!



Pick your matches and unlock exclusive benefits such as merchandise, on-field experiences, Suite upgrades, and more!

2024 Season Memberships

2024 Season Memberships

Our 50th Anniversary season meets our most fan-friendly membership yet.