BDS: Seattle had some summer struggles but lately, they’ve found some good form with three wins out of their last four. What has been the spark in that recent run?
SaH: Having something similar to a first choice starting XI is the simple answer to this question. Obviously being able to start most of your good players is helpful, but that’s not the whole story here. Jordan Morris left for the Gold Cup and has come back a completely different player. For my money, there’s not a better Non-Carlos Vela winger in the league right now based on form, netting 5 goals and assisting on 6 others. Turns out having a healthy Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris, and Nico Lodeiro in your attack is a nice thing to have.
BDS: You all have had to deal with the retirement of Chad Marshall and the season-ending injury to Will Bruin. How has the team adapted to those losses?
SaH: The Sounders still haven’t fully recovered from Chad Marshall’s retirement. It’s difficult to replace the greatest defender in MLS history, especially in the middle of the season like they had to. Xavier Arreaga is a good player and has the opportunity to become a very good centerback in MLS, but he’s had to learn on the fly and it’s not always gone well (see, own goal in Dallas). The defense is a little bit of a mess, but those cracks have dealt with because the offense has been so good.
Missing Will Bruin has been tough. Heading into the season we knew that the team would have to rely on Bruin heavily during the summer given all the international tournaments. He got hurt during the Gold Cup break and the summer slump goes hand and hand with his injury. Now that they have Morris and Ruidiaz back, the blow isn’t as bad, but we definitely felt it in the summer.
BDS: Where do Seattle fans see their club finishing this season in the table? Would anything below 4th place be a disappointment? Do you think this is a MLS Cup contender right now?
SaH: The expectations for Sounders fans heading into the playoffs is that Seattle will be hosting at least one playoff game at home. If that’s not happening, somethings gone wrong with the final few games of the season. Look, anyone who qualifies for the MLS Cup playoffs is technically a contender for the final, right? But if you’re asking me to bet against LAFC, I’m not going to do that. Sounders fans know better than anyone that weird stuff can happen in the playoffs--and it definitely can--but I’m not sure anyone would put us ahead of LAFC. The Sounders will head into the playoffs feeling like they can beat anyone, but they’ll also know they have some weaknesses. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.