If they were writing a book entitled The Team Most Unlikely To, the Sounders would already be well into chapter four.
On the heels of the improbable second half and 2016 playoff run to an MLS Cup, in the first 18 matches this season Seattle has staged a three-goal comeback in the last 15 minutes versus New England and, earlier this week, come from a man down and a goal down at Portland to earn a dramatic draw at the expense of two points to their most despised rival.
The first two acts are unprecedented. Seattle had never won a top flight championship, let alone after such a disastrous start. The Revs also proved to be a foil for Sounders history.
When he takes his place on the terra firma of BMO Field on Saturday night, the mission of Jordan Morris is to do whatever it takes for the Sounders to bring home the Anschutz Trophy.
Win the ball. Hold the ball. Connect. Cover and mark bigs on Reds set plays. Set-up or score a goal, all the better. But just win.
It would be Seattle’s first such championship in the top flight of North American soccer, and it would obviously hold extra special meaning to a Mercer Islander who grew up watching the boys in Rave. And given Puget Sound’s proclivity for producing top-class players, it would be a fantasy come true for fans, to see a homegrown lad lift MLS Cup.
If set to a soundtrack, the game is more suited to symphony than garage band. Fortunes can change quickly in soccer, but usually following a long, drawn-out build-up. Yet there are the exceptions, when the drumbeat does double-time and the cymbals crash repeatedly.
So it was on Sunday. Just when it was seeming Dallas and Seattle were destined to finish the first leg of their series in a scoreless stalemate, the Sounders came unleashed, attacking in fury and soon finding themselves as top dog in a pairing with the top side in MLS this season.
Interim (Really? Still?) coach Brian Schmetzer pondered in his postgame presser whether he’d ever witnessed anything quite like it, the succession of blows by Valdez, Lodeiro and, again, Lodeiro during an 8-minute span early in the second half.
You couldn’t tell the players without a program, and your program was useless unless you arrived at the park early enough to hear the squad announced. That was the first lesson learned upon attending a British football match some 30 years ago. It was a brisk spring evening in Scotland, with dust swirling in a windswept, dilapidated ground of Stirling Albion (don’t ask).
There were no programs and not a lot of spectators either. Although Scottish in heritage this visitor didn’t speak the language. But I’m pretty sure the ol’ man in tweed a few yards away was suggesting I keep an eye on the No. 10. And ain’t that always the case?
Since the height of Pelé’s reign, the No. 10 shirt has been football’s most prized. In theory, it should be issued to a player of quality (at least compared to the rest of the squad). Ideally, it would be worn by an attacking player with a creative, cunning mind to go along with a quiver of skills for surgically dismembering a defense.
Enter Nicolás Lodeiro, Seattle’s new No. 10 and most recently of Boca Juniors. Talk about the pressure and expectation of wearing that number, at La Bombonera Lodeiro was tracing the footsteps of both a demigod (Maradona) and a recently retired legend (Riquelme). And Nico handled it with aplomb, settling in soon after his arrival and leading Boca to the domestic double.
As his father tells the story, Walter Schmetzer beckoned Alan Hinton to watch his vaunted Lake City Hawks to watch a player of promise. But it wasn’t his son.
Still, as is often the case when coaches scout young (in this case U18) players, the original target can be eclipsed by another aspirant sharing the field, and that’s how on spring day in 1980 Brian Schmetzer’s long association with Puget Sound professional soccer began.
Over 36 years since, Schmetzer has been associated as a player or coach with virtually every entity where one could draw a paycheck. Of the 500-some players who’ve worn a Seattle or Tacoma shirt over the years, Brian’s probably watched, played beside or coached an overwhelming majority of them.
And so it’s come to this. Ten MLS matches remain for the Sounders to right themselves, reclaim their dignity and reach the playoffs.
Yet we Rave are a greedy fan base. Can’t help it; the Sounders made us this way. Six playoff berths plus five trophies in six seasons does that. This year, we were told, the objective was once again qualify for the postseason and then eliminate all in our path, an MLS Cup triumph making it truly a December to remember.
Technically, that plan’s still good to go. Seattle clings to the sixth and final playoff slot in the West. However, given a league-worst form of five straight losses and Houston’s game in hand, it’s hardly an iron grip. More like a fingernail dug into a ledge.
After a couple trips back east and a bus ride to BC, the Sounders get to make themselves at home for the rest of May.
A three-match home stand featuring visits by Sporting KC, Colorado and the Red Bulls presents no rollovers as they are a combined 3-3-9 on the road. The low-riding Rapids are actually unbeaten (1-0-4) and miserly (2 GA) away. Go figure.
Of course fans will settle for nothing less than nine points, preferably with two of the games lighting the flames on multiple occasions. Historically, that’s not too much to ask.
Each of the past two seasons Seattle has taken all the points from three-match stands, scoring eight times a year ago against Colorado, Philly and Dallas. That started a string of six straight home wins and set the Rave on a course for the Supporters’ Shield.