Seattle – It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest a file Seattle SoundersThe season was hanging on edge on Sunday. It’s already a shot too far to make the playoffs after picking up just one point in the previous five, short of a home win against the lowly Houston Dynamo It would have made racing to save the season nearly impossible.
During the first 58 minutes, the Sounders played as a team that knows it. There was an urgency about them, a certain determination that was not always there. A rather poor goal had left them 1-0 behind at that point, but the Sounders were outpacing their opponents 13-3 and were dominant in their control of the field.
With that, they needed someone to break through.
Quite possibly, this was the most likely player he felt almost right. When Nouhou – who hasn’t scored for the Sounders in more than 10,000 minutes in all competitions dating back to 2017, intercepted a purge and dominated and then fired into the near post with his weaker foot, the crowd reacted loudly. Like anything I’ve heard at Lumen Field outside of a championship match.
From that moment on, the atmosphere inside the stadium took to a new level. It was as if the summer of our displeasure – with the Sounders having only 10 points out of a possible 39 since June 29 – was no longer on top of mind, and the ominous feeling of “here we go again” was no longer anywhere.
Even after Nicolas Lodeiro saved his penalty – ending a streak of 19 consecutive diversions – the fans continued to hype, expecting something special.
Nuhu’s comeback again – this time to deliver a precise cross to Freddy Monteiro at the back post – was absolutely perfect. Not only was it the Sounders substitute’s first goal of the season, the 76th minute goal was the team’s last goal since May. Houston never came close to sniffing an equalizer, only managing one shot in the last 30 minutes.
The group that looked so fragile over the last five matches finally looked like the resilient group that withstood so many punches during their run to CONCACAF. Champions League nickname.
“It looks like we’ve been trying to find ways to lose games,” Sounders coach Brian Schmitzer said, referring to the recent period of poor results. “Those were brave punches, they were hard to come back from. But thanks to these deeply committed players making sure we run into this race and seeing if we can slip into the playoffs.”
There is clearly a lot of work to be done for this to continue to happen. By most reasonable estimates, the Sounders can’t drop more than 2-4 points over their last five games and that will still require some help. But Sunday’s performance, even against a bad team, showed that there was still something to do here.
Schmetzer made one of his biggest tactical adjustments to date, pushing Albert Rusnak into the attacking midfield and seizing the opportunity on the young double pivot of Josh Atencio and Dani Leiva, while returning to the 4-2-3-1 method they used. Most of the season until this final three-game road trip.
For the most part, it worked as intended. With Atencio and Leiva inclined to sit more, Nicolas Lodeiro and Rusnak were able to focus more on the offensive side, while Raul Ruídias and Jordan Morris freed themselves from worrying about falling in midfield for touches. Football wasn’t completely free, but the Sounders managed to create chances without leaving themselves exposed. Notably, both Rusnák and Lodeiro had key passes in the attack sequence that led to both goals.
Atencio and Leyva have been solid in their limited roles, too. They combined to complete 118 of 132 passes, were given 14 recoveries, and won 10 of 14 duels. Assuming they get another chance next week, they’ll get a much bigger test when they face Austin FC, but there’s at least reason to believe that this group of guys can make it. If you succeed again, the playoffs suddenly don’t seem nearly unrealistic.
Given the way the past few months have gone, this limited optimism is all we can ask for. And even if it caught fire spectacularly, we at least got a reminder of how fun it was to watch a soccer match with 33,000 of our closest friends.