Seattle Sounders continue longest MLS playoff run with second place finish

Seattle Sounders Frei

Seattle, Washington — Nobody was going to top Los Angeles FC.

Los Angeles FC has been extremely dominant this MLS season. However, so have many other teams. Nobody has reached the points that LAFC has this year, but securing a playoff spot, in the end, is what matters. For the Seattle Sounders FC, making the playoffs for an 11th season in a row only secured more history.

LAFC has a long way to go until they catch up to that feat. But, right now, they’re following in the Sounders footsteps, and so is Atlanta United FC. When Seattle first entered the league in 2009, they made the playoffs. They’ve done so every single year since. Atlanta has been in the league for three seasons, making playoff appearances in three years. LAFC is in their second year of existence, notching another playoff spot.

It wasn’t always the prettiest football from Seattle this year. However, it got the job done.

Having Jordan Morris back propelled the Sounders on a goal-scoring and leadership front. Losing Ozzie Alonso hurt, but having Morris back seemed to patch up the wound sooner than expected. Morris, coming off a torn ACL last year, has scored 10 goals this season.

He’s one goal behind team-leading goal scorer Raúl Ruidíaz, who has 11 goals.

Morris also has tapped in seven assists. But, the real stalwart on sending the ball in to his teammates is Uruguayan international Nicolás Lodeiro. The captain — who took the armband over from Alonso — has notched 12 assists.

No one even comes close to Lodeiro’s count. Morris is second on the team with seven assists, and defender Brad Smith rounds out the top three with six assists. However, Seattle’s secret weapon has been their depth on defense and goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Defense wins Championships

It’s an age-old mantra in sports.

“Defense wins championships” could very-well come true for Seattle. This year, the Sounders said goodbye to MLS legend Chad Marshall. Originally part of the Columbus Crew legacy, Marshall joined the late Sigi Schmid in Seattle back in 2014. He’s been an MLS Defender of the Year three times, once being with the Sounders.

However, due to multiple injuries and growing in age, Marshall elected to retire this summer. That retirement meant that Ecuadorian international Xavier Arreaga had to step up fast. He was slowly acclimating to the Sounders, as he only speaks Spanish and joined the team in the summer.

He was paired with Kim Kee-hee, another player that does not fluently speak English. In Kim’s second season in Seattle, he’s been a stalwart on defense. Kim has been consistently in the starting lineup, but his pairings have been unusual. After spending a majority of last year with Marshall, Kim has partnered with five different centerbacks this year.

The South Korean had to form new communication skills with Marshall, Roman Torres, Arreaga, Saad Abdul-Salaam and Jonathan Campbell. Even Gustav Svensson featured as a centerback against D.C. United on Sept. 22.

Seattle has depth on defense and plenty of it. However, don’t be surprised to see the combination of Román Torres and Kim to start out the playoffs.

Stefan Frei is the Sounders MVP

Stefan Frei has been one of the best goalkeepers in the league. He has been giving a couple appearances in U.S. National Team camps, but has never made an appearance for the USA. However, coaches have been ignoring him for some time, despite stellar play.

Frei has made 116 saves this season, facing 165 shots. In addition, the veteran goalkeeper has recorded 10 shut outs. Frei has been a saving grace for Seattle. With all the defensive changes in 2019, Seattle’s defense has had plenty of instances of not being able to keep up.

Frei is fourth in the entire league in saves. The goalkeeper said that he hopes that national team players come back healthy during this week’s international break. Then, it’s all focus on FC Dallas for the first round of the playoffs.

“We’ll take some time off this week and really recharge the batteries,” Frei said. “Next week, we’ll get after it and obviously we’ll do our homework to prepare for them. They’re lethal… We have to be careful. Every game is a fight in this league.” 

Seattle is going to need the defense to be on their A-game for the playoffs. However, if a ball slips through, Frei is the goalkeeper you want in net to make a game-preserving save.