Despite an uncharacteristically early exit from the 2021 postseason, the Seattle Sounders have plenty to look forward to in 2022. As the new year gets underway, here are the biggest reasons to be excited about the season ahead.
Champions League returns
After coming tantalizingly close to their first international trophy last year in a 3-2 Leagues Cup Final loss to Club León, the Sounders will get another crack at continental glory in February. Seattle will open its Concacaf Champions League quest in the Round of 16 against Honduras’ FC Motagua. The Sounders last competed in the 2020 Champions League when they fell to fellow Honduran club CD Olimpia in penalty kicks in the Round of 16.
Healthy Jordan Morris…
Following his remarkable recovery to see the field at the end of the 2021 season following an ACL injury, the Sounders will have the services of a healthy Jordan Morris at their disposal. Morris followed his 2018 ACL injury with a 2019 Comeback Player of the Year award before putting in the best season of his professional career in 2020 and earning MLS Best XI honors.
…And healthy Nicolás Lodeiro
The Sounders put up 60 points in 2021, their most since 2014, so it’s easy to forget that they did that largely without Nicolás Lodeiro. Seattle’s captain suffered several lingering injuries last year, but he reminded everyone of just how good he can be with an exclamation point of a golazo against Liga MX’s Tigres in the Leagues Cup. At his best, he’s an MLS MVP candidate, and hopefully with some downtime to rest, he’ll be in for another strong campaign in Rave Green.
For the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Soccer will reintegrate regular cross-conference matches. The Sounders will play eight games against Eastern Conference opponents, with home fixtures against FC Cincinnati, Inter Miami, Charlotte FC and CF Montreal. Seattle will travel to face Toronto FC, Chicago Fire FC, Atlanta United and Orlando City SC.
Matchups against former Sounders staff
The Sounders will take on two familiar managerial foes in 2022 as Head Coach Brian Schmetzer goes head-to-head against Ezra Hendrickson and Gonzalo Pineda. Hendrickson, who was hired by Chicago Fire FC this offseason, was an inaugural member of the Sounders’ MLS coaching staff when he was an assistant under the late Sigi Schmid alongside Schmetzer. Pineda was Schmetzer’s top assistant before leaving last summer to take over Atlanta United for his first head coaching opportunity.
Cascadia Cup four-peat?
Seattle enters this year looking for its fourth consecutive Cascadia Cup trophy. The Sounders won in 2018, ’19 and ’21 (no trophy was awarded during a COVID-shortened 2020 season). A 2022 title would also break a tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps for the most Cascadia Cup trophies (seven).
Youth: Volume II
Following a season in which Schmetzer employed more youth than he had in any of his previous four and a half years in charge, big things will be expected from the Sounders’ talented crop of Homegrown youngsters. Central midfielders Josh Atencio (1,512 minutes) and Danny Levya (861 minutes) led the way last year and look to take another step forward in 2022. They’ll be joined by fellow teenagers Reed Baker-Whiting, Ethan Dobbelaere and the recently signed Obed Vargas.
Léo Chú time
There’s plenty more to be excited about in 21-year-old Brazilian Léo Chú, who Seattle inked last summer. The U22 Initiative signing showed glimpses of incredible talent in his eight MLS matches last year. He figures to play a larger role in 2022 as he prepares to get a full season under his belt.
Best XI Streak
Following back-to-back seasons in which three Sounders have earned MLS Best XI honors, it will be exciting to see which players elevate their game to all-league status in 2022. Five different members of the Rave Green have made Best XI since 2020, while Cristian Roldan has generated plenty of buzz in the media as a strong contender. Could this be the year that Seattle’s Swiss Army Knife gets the recognition he deserves as one of the best midfielders in MLS?
2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying
International windows this year will be all the more meaningful, as the final FIFA World Cup qualifying matches will take place to determine who goes to Qatar in November. The Sounders’ Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador), Yeimar (Colombia), Jordan Morris (United States), Cristian Roldan (United States), Raúl Ruidíaz (Peru), Brad Smith (Australia) and Nouhou (Cameroon) are all hoping to help their respective countries book their ticket.