SEATTLE – For Seattle Sounders FC, Saturday evening's 3-0 rout of Austin FC at Lumen Field was as cathartic as it was crucial.
In dire need of three points as they look to chart a late push back into the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs race, Seattle put on their most complete showing since their historic Concacaf Champions League title run earlier this year, blitzing Austin behind a Raúl Ruidíaz brace and a second-half own goal.
While the result keeps Seattle's long-shot playoff hopes alive, the performance's comprehensive manner left head coach Brian Schmetzer feeling most encouraged.
"It was a step forward," Schmetzer said postgame. "I think, look, even when we were losing games, finding ways to lose games, I thought there were moments in all of those games where we played some good soccer. But we just had mental lapses, we had some goals that we gave up that we shouldn't have given up. There were some good moments even when we were losing games."
Added captain Nicolas Lodeiro to the local broadcast crew: "Today you see the real Sounders or close to our team. Today was a really good game to show us what we can do better. We have to repeat, repeat, repeat and win a spot in the playoffs."
It was Seattle's second straight victory after last weekend's 2-1 win over Houston Dynamo FC, which came on the heels of a five-match winless run that left the Rave Green's postseason hopes hanging by a thread.
The odds are still stacked against them with four matches to go, but Schmetzer said a result like Saturday's can go a long way in instilling a continued belief that they can accomplish the lofty task in front of them. Seattle are currently on 39 points in ninth place (12W-15L-3D), four off the pace of Real Salt Lake for the seventh-and-final postseason bid in the Western Conference.
"I think the team's in a good run of form," Schmetzer said. "I think that they believe that they can do this. That's a credit to them."
Homegrown midfielder Josh Atencio said that sense of belief is only enhanced by the nature of Saturday's opposition.
Sebastian Driussi, Austin's Landon Donovan MLS MVP candidate, didn't start the match due to an unspecified knee injury, but the Texan side has still been one of the league's top teams all season. Their 60 goals scored are tied with LAFC for the most in the West, and they're poised to soon clinch a first-ever playoff berth.
"It helps," Atencio said. "Team-wise, personal-wise, I mean, beating the second-place team in the [conference] when we're trying to have this push towards the end of the season – they're a team that if we're fortunate and do well enough to get in the playoffs, we might have to face [them] first round. It helps confidence-wise a lot for the team knowing that we can beat any team in the league. We beat the second-place team 3-0."
As US international forward Jordan Morris pointed out when asked if the match had a momentum-shifting feel, he said there's still a mountain to climb to pull off a miracle late-season run into the postseason.
Should Seattle do so, however, Saturday's victory might well be looked back on as the turning-point result.
"I hope so," Morris said. "We still got a lot of work to do, we've had a couple good games, especially this one. I thought we were really, really good in a lot of areas. We put ourselves in a bit of a hole, so we still have a ton of work to do.
"I said it before this game: We've got to treat each game like a final and try and get three points in each game. We're playing much better which is good, and we've just got to keep going."
WATCH: Seattle Sounders rediscover mojo in 3-0 win over Austin FC