Sounders vs. Red Bulls: It’s all about the goals and fighting for the MLS Playoffs

Sounders Red Bulls

Seattle, Washington — It doesn’t have to be pretty anymore. Right now, points just need to be earned and the job needs to be done. With only seven teams punching their ticket to the MLS Cup Playoffs, games are getting more intense. The Seattle Sounders FC realize that there’s a target on their back.

They don’t have the top seed in the Western Conference. However, they’re hanging onto second place for dear life. The Sounders don’t have a giant lead like Los Angeles FC does. Instead, Seattle currently sits with 49 points. To paint a picture of how close the race for the playoffs is, the current team on the outs, in eight place, has 43 points.

That’s FC Dallas, who the Sounders face off with on Wednesday night.

Seattle needed three points to keep themselves ahead of the pack. The Sounders welcomed back Víctor Rodríguez into the fold, too, helping bolster their midfield. After the match, Rodríguez said that missing 10 matches was frustrating.

“I try to give my 100 percent,” Rodríguez said. “Hopefully I can help my team and the starters. But, I’m here to support my team. When the coaches decide [on if I can start], then I’ll be ready to help the team.”

Rodríguez made his presence known early, slicing his way through the midfield. Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said that his expectation was to get Rodríguez comfortable in game atmosphere again.

“I know it was a deflected goal but you know, he and Brad had a good partnership early on in the year,” Schmetzer said. “We’ll keep building minutes on him and make sure that he’s ready for the playoffs.”

Frei proves he’s one of the best — again

There’s no doubt that Stefan Frei is one of the best goalkeepers in MLS.

He’s been a source of inspiration for the Sounders defense. He’s got a lot to work with, too. For example, he’s only in his second year with Kim Kee-hee and has only been paired up with Xavier Arreaga for a couple months. On top of that, neither player speaks English. Kim has possibly picked up a few words, being here for a year. However, Arreaga speaks Spanish.

The language barrier aside, the relationship between the centerbacks and their goalkeeper is gradually improving. Frei was spotted plenty of times giving Arreaga and Kim props for their defensive stops.

Aside from seeing two goals go past him — including one from former Sounders 2 man Aaron Long — Frei packed a punch. He made four saves, denying Long, as well as Marc Rzatkowski and Daniel Royer.

Frei said that getting three points is what matters. However, he did point out some frustrating moments throughout the match.

“… We made it difficult for ourselves,” Frei said. “We have to be better in possession because you can’t defend, defend, defend, defend, defend and then we get the ball and then keep giving the ball away within two to three passes. It’s going to be difficult to defend. You can’t be doing it for 90 minutes straight. There needs to be a relief, and we struggled finding that today.”

Frei said that wide open games don’t win the Sounders trophies.

“We need to find more control,” Frei said. “Today we didn’t do that but in the end we got three points.”

Jordan Morris is on the money for Sounders

Hot off of scoring against Uruguay with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Jordan Morris bagged another Sounders goal. This time, his ninth goal of the season came just two minutes into the start of the match. Swedish international Gustav Svensson recorded the assist.

Morris also assisted the first Nicolás Lodeiro goal. The USMNT forward said that things are just bouncing his way.

“I feel like there have been times in the past where I have been doing similar things and it just hasn’t quite bounced the same way,” Morris said. “For me it’s just always using what I think are my abilities and whatever I can do to make the team better but just trying to be dangerous when I get the ball has been my mentality.”

Morris does credit staying in one position. He said that in his national team camps and club trainings, he’s playing out wide. He’s mastering one position, which he said is helpful.

“Trying to master that one position is something that has been helpful,” Morris said. “It’s a lot of similar responsibilities and every once in a while I’ve been on top but trying to master this position is what’s been helpful.”

What’s Next for the Sounders? 

Seattle has a quick turnaround and will host FC Dallas on Wednesday night. The match will be late for fans on the East Coast, with a 10:30 p.m. start time, but for fans in Seattle the match will begin at 7:30 p.m.

FC Dallas is coming off a 4-0 loss to the Chicago Fire.

Photo: Members of the Seattle Sounders celebrate a goal. Photo taken by Mike Fiechtner/Seattle Sounders FC.