The Seattle Sounders may not have met their own expectations in their first two games of the MLS is Back Tournament, but don't believe for a second that a club that has won eight major trophies since joining MLS in 2009 isn't still aiming for another one in Orlando.
That was manager Brian Schmetzer's message after Sunday night's 3-0 victory over a short-handed Vancouver Whitecaps squad, on a night that began with the Sounders merely aiming for tournament survival and ended with them clinching a place in the last 16.
"We always try and win every single freakin' game that we play," Schmetzer said in a postgame conference call, responding to the idea his club might not want to be in Orlando. "Tonight things came together for us and we won a game. It has nothing to do with whether we want to stay here or not. Whether we want to come home or not. It’s every single game of this club, we want to win. Simple as that. End of story. Next question."
Watch Schmetzer's pointed exchange on the topic during the postgame press conference:
Nobody embodied the desire Schmetzer referenced more than Jordan Morris, who earned a penalty, scored a goal from the run of play, assisted another and generally offered a relentless performance down the left flank.
Fellow goal scorers Nicolas Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz also looked the best they had all tournament. As a result, the Sounders finished Group B on four points and with a plus-2 goal differential, guaranteeing they will be at worst one of the top four third-place group finishers to advance to the knockout phase. They could also finish second depending on the outcome of Vancouver's finale against Chicago Fire FC on Thursday.
"I think we’re an experienced team — we understand the circumstances," Morris said. "I think we understand these moments and have been through them before. So I think just that leadership, that experience we have on the team. No moment is too big to us. We kind of understand how to work through these big games."
The Sounders will have at least a week, and maybe as much as eight days, before that Knockout Round match, where they could either play the second-place finisher in Group F, or the winner of Group A or Group C.
Whoever it is, they would be wise to realize the demise of the Rave Green has been greatly exaggerated.
"In the type of games that are about to come we feel very confident," Lodeiro said through an interpreter. "We are used to it. And we’re going to try to use this experience that we have. Obviously, this [MLS is Back] is different, but now these are decisive games and they are similar to the playoffs. In recent years we’ve done a great job in the playoffs and we hope to continue this way and we’ll prepare for the opponent, whoever it is, because we’re confident in the team we have.”