As challenging as the last several weeks have been for Seattle Sounders FC, they got the type of result in Matchday 24 that can do wonders in breaking out of a funk.
Saturday's 3-2 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place saw Seattle erase deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 before Yeimar Gomez Andrade scored a dramatic stoppage-time game-winner. Seattle's recently-stagnant attack was offered a jolt via a dynamic performance from Léo Chú that saw the Brazilian U22 Initiative winger score a brace, draw a late second yellow card on Vancouver's Mathías Laborda, and help create the chance that led to Yeimar's decisive strike.
On a night where center back Jackson Ragen and captain Nicolas Lodeiro also bagged two assists apiece, head coach Brian Schmetzer said the comeback nature of the result struck him as even more impressive than the explosive output on the stat sheet.
"All the stats don't mean anything, in my opinion," Schmetzer said after the match. "What matters is that team found a way to win. They went down twice, I don't think deservedly because I thought we outplayed them for large parts of the game. I thought our possession sequences were great.
"And the grit, never quit, tough kids, whatever adjective you want to use, that group of players – when they celebrated Yeimar's goal, you go take a look at that. That's a team that's together, that's committed, that's going to do a lot of good things this season."
What Chú gonna do?
Tasked as a de-facto centerpiece of Seattle's offense in the Concacaf Gold Cup-related absences of US internationals Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan, Chú's breakout 2023 continued on Saturday with his third multi-goal contribution effort of the season. The first came back in a team-record four-assist outburst back on March 25, when he and Morris combined to torch Sporting Kansas City for all four goals in a 4-1 victory at Children's Mercy Park.
It all points to sky-high upside for the summer 2021 arrival from Brazilian side Grêmio, Schmetzer said, also noting there are still areas of Chú's game to refine that could portend another developmental leap.
"He's a tremendous attacking talent," Schmetzer said. "What I would say is that he still has room to grow. And if he really digs into his career, he'll be a really tremendous player in our league. He's got all the tools, speed, technique, talent. The two goals were kind of a bonus.
"The one play in the first half where he got to the end-line and he crossed the ball and it hit Nico Lodeiro's head and he headed it and it didn't go in, that ball should have actually been played on the floor. And so some of those little small details, when he figures that out, he is going to be lights-out. And we're very happy that he's on the team."
St. Louis in sight
Crucially, the three-point result puts Seattle (10W-7L-5D, 35 points) two points clear of LAFC for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference standings. They're also three points back of first-place St. Louis CITY SC.
Given the recent downturn in form for Seattle following a hot start, Ragen hopes the rivalry result can be the impetus for a stretch run, which will at some point be reinforced by Roldan and Morris's return to the group.
"Super important result," Ragen said. "I think it's been a frustrating last month or so, where we've played pretty well but haven't gotten the results we'd like. A lot of draws. So hopefully this will be a turning point for the second half of the season, because I think we were dominant today. This was probably one of our best performances of the year."