Sports & Outdoors

MLS season in full swing as Sounders start strong

A Minnesota FC striker dribbles down the field — Photo courtesy of Flickr

The 2019 Major League Soccer (MLS) season is in full swing. One month in, the race for playoff spots looks to be a tight one. In the nether regions of both conferences however, some teams are desperately struggling. The Seattle Sounders are off to a roaring start.

According to mlssoccer.com, opening weekend (March 2–3) saw an unprecedented five of 12 matches end in a draw. However, none ended scoreless, a testament to the exciting soccer that the MLS offers this year.

The other seven results were rather telling. Every team that walked away with three points on opening weekend is currently in a playoff spot (seventh place or higher). On the other hand, almost every team that lost their opening match sits below seventh place. The only exception is FC Cincinnati, which, in its first season in the MLS, currently holds fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

The new MLS club is only three points behind first-place D.C. United. D.C. brought in the Evertonian Pelé, Wayne Rooney, in June 2018 to great effect. The former England Captain scored 18 goals in 20 appearances in his first season in D.C., according to mlssoccer.com. Rooney has already bagged four goals in four games this campaign, certainly a warning sign to defenses across the league.

In the Western Conference, Los Angeles FC holds first place with 13 points from five games. LAFC — owned by Will Ferrell, Mia Hamm and Magic Johnson, among others — is only in its second MLS season. The club impressively finished third in the West last year, but their postseason campaign was short-lived, as they lost at home to Real Salt Lake in the first round of playoffs.

Behind LAFC? None other than Seattle Sounders, who started the season with three straight wins. It took some last minute heroics from goalkeeper Stefan Frei and defender Kim Kee-Hee to keep their undefeated record as they tied Vancouver 0-0 in the last match. Nonetheless, the Sounders are looking like a force to be reckoned with.

Sophomore Donovan Screws is a long-time supporter of The Rave Green (a popular moniker for the club). Screws is still haunted by the unfortunate end to Seattle’s 2018 season. In the Conference Semifinals, Sounders hosted their biggest rivals, the Portland Timbers. After a dramatic, high-scoring second leg, a penalty shootout sent Rose City through to the Conference Finals.

Screws recalled the ecstasy that the first 90 minutes of the match induced: “I was at the game with Homer, my dad, and when Raúl Ruidíaz (of Peru) scored a screamer in stoppage time to send it to extra time, we embraced each other in a way we hadn’t since he watched me score my first goal on Junior Varsity years ago.”

The Peruvian striker’s heroics could not save Seattle in the ensuing penalty shootout however, which Portland won 4-2. Unsurprisingly, this final result conjured different emotions from Sounders supporters.

Screws illustrated the disappointment that filled CenturyLink Field: “When something like that happens, it really makes you think. Homer and I didn’t speak a word on our way out of the stadium — no one did, really.”

Despite a disappointing postseason, Sounders made their presence known last year. After a rough start to the season, winning only four games, Seattle somehow managed to finish second place in the Western Conference. They broke the MLS record for consecutive victories in league play along the way, winning nine matches in a row. If the Sounders defeat Vancouver, they will have tied this record, recording five wins at the end of last season and four at the beginning of this current campaign.

Coming into 2019, Seattleites have a lot to be excited about. For one, local lad Jordan Morris is back from a year-long absence after a horrid knee injury. The speed-merchant of a forward hails from Mercer Island, one of many reasons that he is a fan favorite. In the 2019 season opener, Morris bagged a brace (two goals in one match), a dream return to the pitch.

Screws was particularly excited about this development. “ACL injuries can ruin careers at any level of soccer. I’ve seen it happen, so seeing J-Mo come back so strong was brilliant,” Screws said.

It is this recent run of form that has Seattle supporters feeling optimistic about 2019. “The Rave Green subreddit is filled with positivity,” Screws said. “Sounders fans around the world have been expressing high hopes for this season.”

Seattle Sounders are one of many franchises that have upped their game enormously in recent years. Major League Soccer has brought in many aging but top-class players from around the globe. Players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Villa, Gustav Svensson and the aforementioned Wayne Rooney have graced the league with their talents and raised domestic standards.

Additionally, MLS teams have developed homegrown talents of their own. The most recent product of MLS academies is Alphonso Davies. The 18-year-old Canadian international came up the ranks in Vancouver and entered the first team in great style. After two eye-catching seasons in the MLS, Davies signed with FC Bayern Munich, a top-class German club.

All in all, Major League Soccer is on the up, and Seattle Sounders is a great choice for anyone looking to join in on the excitement around American soccer. As Screws puts it, “MLS is unironically one of, if not the best, league in world football.”

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