The Seattle Sounders’ 2021 season was a memorable one both on and off the pitch. As we turn the page to 2022, let’s take a look back at all the lasting moments and storylines from the past year.
When Jordan Morris went down with an ACL injury on loan with Swansea City in February, the Sounders’ attacking threat on the wings took a serious blow. So in a seismic shift from the 4-2-3-1 formation that Head Coach Brian Schmetzer had employed since taking over in 2016, one which had led to four MLS Cup appearances in five years, he implemented a three-center-back system that had tremendous success.
Much speculation was made surrounding veteran forward Fredy Montero’s return to Rave Green after a nine-year hiatus. Surely a forward entering his age-34 season couldn’t have an impact on a club that already possessed one of the most effective attacks in the league? Montero proved to everyone that, yes, he still very much had it when he tallied an assist and then scored a beautiful volley at Lumen Field in just 18 minutes off the bench in his return. That was no blip either as he finished the season with an impressive seven goals and six assists in nearly 1,500 minutes.
MLS record 13 matches unbeaten to start the season
Despite the new formation and long-term injuries to Morris and Nicolás Lodeiro, the Sounders started the campaign 7-0-6 and set an MLS record for the longest unbeaten run to start a season. The hot start propelled the Sounders to 60 points, their third highest in club history and the most since 2014.
Alex Roldan, goalkeeper
Alex Roldan was one of the best right wingbacks in MLS this season, but much of what he’ll be remembered for this year will be his incredible fill-in goalkeeping duty in San Jose in May. With Stefan Frei injured late in the match and the Sounders already out of substitutions, Roldan put on the goalkeeping gloves and helped preserve a 1-0 road shutout. Roldan didn’t just pick grass in the box, either. He was called upon on more than one occasion and helped see out the clean sheet.
Youth prevails in Austin
Faced with a depleted roster due to injury and international duty, the Sounders were forced into extreme hardship and had to call up several Tacoma Defiance players for their match at Austin FC. The Sounders became the first team in MLS history to start five teenagers and came away with a valiant 1-0 victory thanks also in no small part to a long-range golazo from Raúl Ruidíaz.
Goalfest in Portland
Seattle went down to Providence Park and dropped six goals on its rival the Portland Timbers in a record-breaking 6-2 win. The six goals scored were the most by one team in the rivalry since each team joined MLS. The match was also highlighted by some of the best goals of the season, including a volley from Jimmy Medranda, a free kick from Ruidíaz and a left-footed curler from Montero.
Six players in MLS All-Star Game
The Sounders set another MLS record when all six selections started for Head Coach Bob Bradley in the MLS All-Star Game. Ruidíaz, Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan, João Paulo, Yeimar and Nouhou were all named to the MLS All-Star team that defeated Mexico’s Liga MX All-Stars in penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation.
Leagues Cup run
The Sounders came up agonizingly short in their quest to win the Leagues Cup, ultimately falling 3-2 to Mexico’s Club León in Las Vegas in September. Seattle steamrolled Tigres 3-0 in the quarterfinals before defeating Santos Laguna 1-0 on a stoppage-time goal by Ruidíaz. The Sounders held a 1-0 lead over León before conceding three unanswered in the second half. Despite coming up short in pursuit of the club’s first international trophy, the Sounders have another chance to prove regional dominance in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League.
Three players in MLS Best XI
The Sounders had three players named MLS Best XI for the second consecutive year, as Ruidíaz, João Paulo and Yeimar each earned the honor. Ruidíaz earned his second straight nod after scoring a club-record-tying 17 goals, which was tied for third in MLS. João Paulo was the league’s best defensive midfielder, controlling the center of the park on both sides of the ball and adding a team-high 11 assists. Yeimar anchored the league’s best defense at center back and led MLS in interceptions.
Jordan Morris returns
One of the biggest storylines for the Sounders heading into the postseason was the return of Morris. The Mercer Island native was ahead of schedule in his ACL recovery and started and went over 100 minutes in Seattle’s Round One playoff match against Real Salt Lake. Morris, who also recently made his first cap for the United States in over two years, should be ready to hit the ground running come next year.