TUKWILA, Wash. — If you need any evidence illustrating the inevitable ups and downs that come with the long and rigorous grind of an MLS season, look no further than the past few weeks for the Seattle Sounders.
For much of the summer and into September, the Sounders were the league’s hottest team, owners of a nine-game winning streak that broke the single-season record for the longest run of its kind in the post-shootout era. But they’ve followed that up with a pair of losses, first to the Philadelphia Union at home on Sept. 19 and then to the LA Galaxy on the road at StubHub Center on Sunday.
Sounders fourth-year midfielder Cristian Roldan has been a part of MLS long enough now to know that peaks and valleys are a part of playing in a league that is notoriously unpredictable and parity-heavy. He also understands that how a team responds to a slight lull in form like this can be a big part of what defines a season.
“When you win nine in a row, you feel unstoppable, you feel like your confidence is so high,” Roldan said on Thursday. “You have to feel humbled at times by losses and bad games. I felt like there were a couple games where we could have been humbled earlier, but we got away with the win and obviously we’ll take it but at some point you get humbled. That Philly game was one of them and LA was certainly another.”
The Sounders’ focus on the training ground this week has been getting back to how they played during the winning streak: Specifically, playing suffocating defense and being clinical with the chances they generate on the other end.
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Getting back to those basics, midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro said on Thursday, is going to be critical as the Sounders jostle for postseason positioning ahead of the season’s stretch run.
“We need to [move on] from the last two games,” Lodeiro said. “That’s the key. We can’t make the same mistakes because we don’t have time…We might [have felt] a bit tired the last game because we had three games in a week after the [FIFA international] break. But now we’re training again with our same routine so now we feel good.”
The Sounders will get their first opportunity to right the ship in the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field, where they’ll take on the Colorado Rapids on Saturday (1 p.m. PT; JOEtv, YouTube TV, Univision-Seattle, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS). Center back Chad Marshall, who missed the game in Los Angeles with a head injury, has been back on the practice field this week and figures to feature. However, Seattle will have to play without midfielder Harry Shipp, a key cog during that nine-game win streak, due to a right hamstring strain that is expected to keep him out two to three weeks. Fullback Brad Smith is out with a right hamstring strain as well.
Ever the optimist, Roldan said his hope is that dealing with adversity close to the playoffs will actually end up working to the team’s benefit. If Seattle can overcome the recent losses and injury struggles in the regular season, the thinking goes, it will add to the mental fortitude of the group come playoff time should the Sounders lock up a spot.
“Adversity always makes a team stronger,” Roldan said. “Obviously we’d like to be Atlanta [United] right now and [competing for] the Supporters’ Shield and clinched for the playoffs, but the reality is we’re in a tough spot in a tough conference. But adversity is always good for a team. I always like to say we got our losses out before the playoffs and hopefully we can continue to win games and put ourselves in a good spot going forward so we can win some games.”