Sounders-Whitecaps FC Preview
All offseason, the Seattle Sounders vowed they would not repeat what happened a year ago when the club had an awful spring and found itself among the worst in Major League Soccer near the midseason mark.
The Sounders understood a quick start to the 2019 season was important for their own psyche and their bigger goals in the context of the new MLS playoff format.
So far, Seattle is backing up what it hoped to accomplish.
"The atmosphere is great," forward Jordan Morris said after the Sounders improved to 3-0-0 by beating Chicago on March 16. "Guys are working really hard. There's a belief that this team can do really good things."
Off to its best start since its inaugural season of 2009, Seattle is one of two teams with perfect records going into this week's round of matches. The Sounders travel north for a Cascadia Cup rivalry match at Vancouver on Saturday night. Toronto is off to a 2-0-0 start as well, with the Reds set to face New York City FC on Friday night.
The first half of the season has been a slog for Seattle in recent campaigns, leaving the club trying to crawl back from the bottom of the Western Conference standings to get into playoff contention. While Seattle showed resiliency in getting back each season, it was also exhausting.
With the MLS playoff structure moving to a single-elimination format and home-field advantage being a true benefit, the Sounders knew a similar start this season wouldn't be acceptable.
And Seattle is doing it with offense. The Sounders and Los Angeles FC both have 10 goals scored already, but Seattle has played one fewer game. Of Seattle's 10 goals, five have come in the first 30 minutes of matches.
"We're going to come out and we're going to try and impose our will on teams early," Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said.
The Sounders have done just that in going 4-0-2 in the last six meetings with Vancouver, including a pair of matchups in the 2017 conference semifinals. The Sounders own a 10-2 scoring advantage during that stretch and now face a Whitecaps team that is off to an 0-3-0 start.
"We're facing probably a team that is in the top two or three in MLS right now," Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos said. "... For us the challenge is the opportunity because of how we started the season. Playing this game at home in front of our fans, the Cascadia Cup, what it means to the club, to the organization. We're very aware of that so again, to play Seattle in this moment is very big for us."
Updated March 30, 2019