At the halfway point of the 2021 MLS Regular Season, plenty of league pundits are bullish on members of the Seattle Sounders securing league-wide awards come the end of the campaign.
Based on a poll of the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff, three Sounders emerged as favorites to take home the highest individual honors midway through the year. In the back line, Yeimar has been named the frontrunner for Defender of the Year, while Raúl Ruidíaz gets the nod for the Golden Boot presented by Audi. Head Coach Brian Schmetzer was also selected as the top contender for Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year.
"It’s a deserving advantage for the Seattle Sounders center back," wrote MLSsoccer.com's Jonathon Sigal, "considering how he’s been borderline dominant for the Western Conference powerhouse and Supporters’ Shield contender this year."
Ruidíaz currently sits second in the Golden Boot race behind the New England's Gustavo Bou on tiebreakers -- the Revolution striker boasts one more assist at the moment -- but his penchant for elevating his game under pressure has the experts convinced he's poised for an explosive second half the season.
According to Sigal, Schmetzer's ability to guide a group that any pundits had doubted in preseason through a difficult stretch of injuries and absences makes him the ideal candidate for Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year.
"When the injury hits just kept on coming, surely the Seattle Sounders would regress and slip from the top tier of MLS clubs," said Sigal. "Plus, there were already steady questions back in preseason about how they'd look after a slower offseason – projections that now look shortsighted in hindsight."
"Instead, Schmetzer guided the Sounders to an MLS record 13 games unbeaten to start the year and instituted a change to a system with three center backs and wingbacks. He's pulled all the right levers, all while seeing Lodeiro, Stefan Frei and more miss long periods to injury, plus confronting international duty for the Roldan brothers. Oh, and Best XI forward Jordan Morris hasn't featured whatsoever after tearing his ACL while on loan at Swansea City."
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The Sounders return to action on Sunday as they visit the Portland Timbers (7:00 p.m. PT; FS1; FOX Deportes, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360AM) in the second meeting between the two sides this season.