As annual surge seems to take hold, Seattle Sounders talking playoffs

SEATTLE—At this point, the Seattle Sounders should probably file for a patent on their second-half surges.

It appears to be that time of year for Seattle and head coach Brian Schmetzer, who seem to be flipping the switch once again following a lackluster start to the season.

Coming off Sunday's 3-1 victory over New York City FC at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders are now unbeaten in their last six matches and have bagged three straight victories – two of which came on the road. And to hear midfielder Cristian Roldan tell it, the 4-0-2 run his team is currently on could just be the tip of the iceberg:

“The incredible thing about this [run] is we’re not playing well. We’re grinding out games, we’re winning these games because we’re playing good defense and we’re scoring one or two goals. And that’s the scary part. You think about six unbeaten and you think if we start playing well, like we’re supposed to, we can go on a really long run.”

It’s a blueprint that the Sounders have followed each of the past two seasons, when they stumbled out of the gate only to turn it on late, surge into the playoffs and make it to MLS Cup in both campaigns, winning in 2016.

While it’s still too early to be declaring the Sounders out of the woods from 2018's 4-9-5 start, the feel in the locker room seems similar. After Sunday’s match, the mood was as jovial as it's been all season, with music blaring and jokes sprinkled through the player media scrums.

“When the team starts playing well, players like Harry [Shipp], players like Nico [Lodeiro], players like Cristian, Kelvin [Leerdam], on down the list – they all have that little confidence, that little bit of swagger,” Schmetzer said. “And you can feel it within the group.”

“Without a doubt, without a question in my mind, that team, that group never gives up. They always compete. All of them. And that’s what makes my job so much easier when you have guys that are committed to winning. So, all the credit goes to them.”

There’s still plenty of work to be done.

Seattle’s 7-9-5 record leaves them with 26 points, five behind Real Salt Lake for the Western Conference’s sixth and final playoff spot. Their upcoming stretch of games will also be a trying one, with a trip to see a resurgent Minnesota United FC next weekend set to be followed up by bouts against powerhouse FC Dallas, the playoff contending LA Galaxy, and Cascadia arch-rival Portland Timbers.

“We put ourselves in a really big hole, so we need to collect points,” Schmetzer said. “I don’t care where we collect them, how we collect them – we need to collect points. Because this team deserves to be in the playoffs. They have put the work in. It’s just a question of can we dig ourselves out, can we get enough points to get in?”