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Looking to peak in Seattle
During the early months of the season, the Sounders found themselves swimming at the bottom of the Western Conference. Several things contributed to that losing record, but none more pronounced then the injuries.
For the most part, there hasn’t been a consistent starting lineup all season.
Forward Nate Jaqua absence started the season on the injuries list and apparently many of his teammates felt that he needed some company. For a while, the place looked like a MASH unit.
“I have said all along I think when we are healthy, when we are on our game, when the mentality is right we are as good of team as any. It’s a very even league so that doesn’t mean I think we are miles better than anybody. I do think we can win a championship when we are firing on all cylinders,” stated Head Coach Sigi Schmid.
One thing for sure, losing is no fun and it took its toll on the team physically and mentally. It became so bad that the organization actually refunded money to all season ticket holders after a home lost.
Which is just another reason why I love this team.
Things had to change and quickly. Blaise Nkufo and Alvaro Fernandez were added to the mix. Freddie Ljungberg, an MLS Best XI selection and two-time All-Star midfielder, was traded to the Chicago Fire in exchange for a conditional selection in the 2011 or 2012 SuperDraft.
Coach Schmid had made it plan to everyone on the roster that all positions were open and that people were going to have to really start competing for their spot. The team’s work ethic was challenged.
“The guys realize their situation. I think at the beginning of the year we were patting ourselves on the back after what we accomplished last year. I think everyone came to the realization that we have to put in the effort. I kept telling them if we put in the effort, the soccer will show,”added Coach Schmid.
At this time, the Sounders have found their “mojo” and are back in the game.
Seattle advanced Tuesday night, by way of aggregate goals scored, to the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League with a 1-1 draw in San Salvador.
They defeated MetapÃ¡n, 1-0, in the first leg of the preliminary series, played on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field last week. The team then won at San Jose, 1-0, before continuing its journey to San Salvador.
Seattle is undefeated in its last four MLS matches and in seven games over all competitions. The Sounders FC (7-8-4, 25 points) have vaulted from seventh to fourth in the West and just two points behind FC Dallas.
They’ve won three straight and haven’t lost in its last four MLS starts dating back to July 11. The seven-game unbeaten run (5-0-2) in all competitions began with a 2-0 win over the L.A. Galaxy in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal on July 7.
“What we are doing right now is we’re growing as a club as the Seattle Sounders. We are being rewarded for the hard work that we are putting in every day,” said Coach Schmid.
In the process, what may have gone unnoticed during this resurgence is the masterful way in which Coach Schmid made the necessary adjustments. The substitutions that he made played to the strengths of his players and maximized scoring opportunities.
Coach Schmid was clear to point out that this wasn’t a turning point because it never turned. “The moment you stop and pat yourself on the back a bunch of people pull past you.”
“So right now we are in a good phase and we need to continue to do that.”
“A defining moments is something I usually look at more as an after the season type of thing. But certainly the win over the L.A. Galaxy in the Open Cup was a big moment for us after having just lost to them down there,” continued Coach Schmid.
The next test for Seattle will come against the Houston Dynamo and Brian Ching, Brian Mullan and Brad Davis will give the Sounders all that they can handle. They’ll have to match their intensity straight out of the gate and not play catch up to be successful.