Ryne Oshiro, Staff Writer
Champions. It’s what every team wants to be named after the conclusion of every season. Every team wants the championship just as bad as the next, but it’s about getting to the highest level that gets them there. For the Seattle Sounders, it wasn’t a championship being won, but instead, it was indeed another banner year for them. After Seattle embarked on a nine-game winning streak, they broke the MLS record for consecutive wins. More importantly, Seattle found themselves making the playoffs for the 10th-straight year.
“You don’t want to dig yourself in a hole every year but this year has been very much different because of the streak that we went on. The last couple of years, we’ve lost a few here and there, had a couple of ties that kind of disrupted our flow,” midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “All of a sudden this year we win nine in a row, lose one, lose two, and we’re back on a five-game win streak. That’s unheard of. You win 13 games out of 15, it’s pretty incredible. A straight decade of making the playoffs is a hard feat in itself, yet when a team doesn’t have a championship to show for it, there are always improvements that need to be made.
The Sounders started the season by losing three straight games and were plagued with injuries through the months of May and June. Losing Jordan Morris for the year in preseason training was devastating. Víctor Rodríguez spent a majority of the season injured, playing in only 19 games. Meanwhile, Handwalla Bwana spent nearly four months on the sideline. All of these players are key components to the Sounders’ previous success. Even with things that went wrong, there are many lessons the team can build from adversity.
Kim Kee-Hee, a native of South Korea who was picked up during the off-season, barely spoke any English when he joined the team this year. A language barrier can cause a lot of problems for both the team chemistry and communication. Squads could often become frustrated at the fact that other teammates won’t be able to understand what one another is saying. Yet, for the Sounders, the language barrier was non-existent, and they proved to be one of the top defensive teams in the MLS.
With all the good and bad, the Sounders were still one step away from making it to the MLS Finals yet again. Prior to the 2018 season, the team had been in the finals for two straight years and even won in 2016. Could 2019 be the year that the Sounders piece everything together to become champions yet again? There are a few improvements that need to be made, such as the development of a relationship between the hurt Jordan Morris, who will be back, and Ruidíaz. That will be the biggest offensive tandem for the Sounders. The losses are painful both for the players and the fan base. But, if there’s any consolation for the Sounders faithful, it’s that Seattle is set up to get right back to the postseason next year with a core anchored by Ruidíaz and Lodeiro, and one of the league’s stingiest defense.