After a grueling win on penalties against Real Salt Lake Tuesday night, the Sounders are hoping that the bit of momentum generated by the victory in the U.S. Open Cup might finally help them out of the slump they have been in for a month and a half. Seattle is at Toronto FC Saturday (4:30 p.m., JOEtv).
It would be fitting if a dramatic Open Cup victory reversed Seattle’s fortunes. The same thing happened last season, though the momentum went the opposite direction. A disastrous loss to the Portland Timbers spurred a summer slump in which the Sounders went 1-9 in league play, dashing their hopes of a second consecutive Supporters’ Shield.
Seattle (5-9-1) is 2-5 in league play since the end of April, losers of five of its past six, but they finally get back Clint Dempsey after his USMNT duties in the Copa America tourney.
Coach Sigi Schmid said that hard-fought Open Cup games have helped with league momentum before.
“We’ve had that happen,” Schmid said Tuesday after the match. “Three years ago we went down to San Jose, same thing happened, we beat them 1-0. That win started to propel us into a good run of form in the league.”
Momentum will matter in a July more congested Mercer Street. Seattle plays seven competitive matches before the end of the month, one roughly every four days.
That number would be enough to wear down a team half Seattle’s age and twice as deep. Tack on a Tuesday friendly against West Ham United of the English Premier League, and several players may be looking for hamstring transplants come August.
Three times Seattle will face the LA Galaxy in July, twice in league play and once in the Open Cup July 20. Between those meetings are a match apiece against FC Dallas, Sporting KC, and the Portland Timbers. Dallas and Kansas City have beaten Seattle once this season, while the Timbers traditionally find another gear while facing their Cascadia neighbors.
Toronto (5-6-4) may be the least threatening team Seattle will face during that span. Considering that the club haa the past year’s MVP, Italian Sebastian Giovinco, that is not a thought to fuel confidence in a team that has struggled.
Seattle may be helped by the absences of Jozy Altidore and starting keeper Clint Irwin, both dealing with injuries. Recently returned USMNT captain and midfielder Michael Bradley may also be unable to play, reportedly requiring evaluation for a knee injury that he may have sustained during the Copa America.
Injuries to the opposition will not be enough for Seattle to come away with three points in Toronto, but if they can re-create the determination displayed against Real Salt Lake Tuesday, they may give themselves a chance for a fresh start in July.