Seattle Sounders "not the same team" that won CCL, says Lodeiro

If you watched Seattle Sounders FC's 1-0 loss at Chicago Fire FC on Saturday night and thought the Rave Green looked nothing like the team that became MLS's first Concacaf Champions League winner in May, well, Nicolas Lodeiro would agree with you.

Speaking after Seattle’s third-straight scoreless defeat during an eight-day stretch, Lodeiro expressed frustration and concern about the Sounders’ direction, which has them still sitting just beneath the Western Conference's Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line with 14 matches to play (8W-10L-2D; 26 points).

A season-ending ACL injury to midfielder João Paulo and shorter recurring muscular issues for striker Raul Ruidiaz have hampered the team, setbacks that were evident last week in a 3-0 loss to the Portland Timbers and 1-0 loss to Nashville SC.

But after a defeat to a Fire team that currently sits 12th in the Eastern Conference table, decided by a lone goal from defender Rafael Czichos' 23rd-minute header, the 33-year-old Uruguayan captain said it's about more than personnel.

“We’re not the same team,” Lodeiro said through an interpreter. “We’re definitely not the same team that played at the Concacaf tournament. And not only on these games but also all the other games. We feel tired, without inspiration.”

Asked what must be fixed to snap out of Seattle’s first three-match scoreless stretch since 2018 and first three-match MLS skid since 2019, Lodeiro said it was about intangibles.

“Attitude. Attitude,” Lodeiro insisted. "We have to change our attitude. We have to be more aggressive. We have to have the ball. We have to want to have the ball. Of course, we are the team [people want to beat]. We won the championship of Concacaf, and everyone looks [forward to] playing us and beating us. And nobody is going to give us anything. No teams are going to be giving us gifts or anything. So we have to improve.”

Head coach Brian Schmetzer echoed those sentiments, saying at times he sees a team playing without trademark Sounders confidence.

And while Schmetzer won’t get João Paulo back and homegrown standout Obed Vargas has a back fracture, finding a more stable solution in the No. 6 role is a priority. Schmetzer praised the performance of youngster Danny Leyva, who played there Saturday. Albert Rusnak has often played the position as well. Lodeiro – naturally an attacking midfielder – eventually moved into the defensive midfield spot as the Sounders sent on attacking substitutes and searched for a late equalizer at Soldier Field.

“I believe that we need to find some consistency in that position,” said Schmetzer. “I think Albert has done a great job. I think toward the end of the game, when I bring Nico back there, I think that’s OK. But we need to have some stability in that area of the field. So we’ll assess the game, we’ll assess Danny’s performance, and we’ll make some decisions as to the right combination of players in that vital part of the field.”

Seattle have made 13 straight Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, qualifying for the postseason every year since joining MLS as an expansion club in 2009. They're known for second-half runs, too, which helped power MLS Cup triumphs in 2016 and 2019.

But now is the time to lean into a sense of urgency, Schmetzer said, as the FIFA Club World Cup-bound Sounders face a 1W-4L-0D skid they didn't even encounter earlier this year when prioritizing CCL games.

“There’s 14 games left, which seems like a long time, but it’s really not,” Schmetzer said. "And we also talked about pressure [after the game]. About how, when things aren’t going well, you have to step forward. You have to not be afraid to change your mindset and do things a little bit differently.”