Storylines | Changing Tides in Puget Sound?


Seattle is known as the City of Goodwill. It’s their motto, it’s on their cool-looking flag, and it appears to be the approach they’re taking on the soccer field as well: giving points away to opponents in bunches and taking very little for themselves. Honestly, it’s a refreshing and welcome change from the Sounders we’ve grown used to coming up against. But what prompted this abrupt change, and why are Brian Schmetzer’s men struggling so much this season? This week’s edition of Storylines is diving into Seattle’s soccer scuffling; let’s get to the bottom of it.

Not Our Favorite Opponent

Since joining Major League Soccer in 2017, the Loons have faced off against the team from Puget Sound a total of 14 times, including one fateful postseason appearance that we’ll get to in due time. In their 13 regular season matches, the Sounders have come out on top 10 times, meaning the Loons have only picked up points against the Rave Green a total of three times.

A 1-1 draw at Allianz Field in 2019 was the first positive result MNUFC got over their PNW banes, and they’d have to wait until 2021 to get a full three points in a 1-0 win in the Twin Cities. The only other positive result came in last season’s 1-1 draw, meaning that out of 42 possible points, the Loons have only managed to pry five points from Seattle’s cold hands. Ouch.

If the regular season record wasn’t enough for you, let’s take a brief look back at the biggest matchup between these two clubs: the 2020 Western Conference Finals. I know, it’s a bad memory. But for the sake of building anticipation, we need to revisit it.

After going up 2-0 in the 67th minute, it looked like MNUFC had booked their ticket to their first-ever MLS Cup Final. Unfortunately, Will Bruin (75’), Raúl Ruidíaz (89’), and Gustav Svensson (90+3’) had other plans, and that didn’t include extra-time or penalties, as the hosts completed a 3-2 comeback at the death. The Loons were left shell-shocked; their deepest playoff run cut to an abrupt, violent stop, and their bogey team was the culprit. Needless to say, the Black and Blue faithful are sick of watching Seattle fans celebrate at their expense, and I can’t blame them.

The Tides They are a-Changin’

Coming into 2023, we all knew that Seattle’s roster would be a little different. Club legend Nicolás Lodeiro migrated south to Orlando, Pedro de la Vega joined from the Argentine Primera División with big expectations, and several rotational pieces left the club via various means. Despite the differences in personnel, most pundits foresaw another successful season ahead of the historic powerhouse from Washington state, and they couldn’t have been more wrong.

Halfway through the season, the Sounders are in 10th place with 18 points from 17 games. Their 4-7-6 record is already just two losses shy of their full-season tally from 2023, and three of their four wins have come at the expense of similarly struggling sides. Their best result of the year is a 3-2 road win against Philadelphia, another established powerhouse that’s failing to pull their weight in 2024.

Ruidíaz is scoring, bagging seven goals in just 16 appearances, but the goals aren’t consistent enough across the board. Schmetzer’s side have been shutout six times this year, and they’ve only managed one goal in six of the games that they actually found the net. With stats like that, it’s no wonder that they’re being met with losses and draws more often than not. They’re only slightly underperforming their expected goals, and while reversing such narrow margins could have them a bit further up the table, the underlying issues remain: this team isn’t as dangerous as they used to be.

They’re not terrible by any stretch of the imagination; they’re just … not what we’re used to. Sometimes, a good thing simply goes bad. Even the best teams in the world suffer from stagnation if the squad isn’t refreshed properly between seasons, and it seems that Seattle’s recipe for success is finally going a bit stale. Their worst-ever finish to a season was their 11th-place effort in 2022, and if they don’t turn things around relatively quick, they’ll be challenging that record in 2024.

That said, the Loons know better than to write Saturday’s opponents off. Nobody likes to punch a rival when they’re down, but after years spent watching the Sounders get the better of them, this in-form Loons squad should relish the chance to pull one over on what has historically been their white whale. A first win in Seattle is very much in the cards this weekend; they just need to play them right.