Seattle Sounders FC is trying for a trifecta.
The Sounders just opened their 2018 MLS season, and Seattle has a chance of reaching the MLS Cup final for the third consecutive season.
It’s been a golden period for the Sounders. Seattle claimed its first MLS Cup in 2016 by beating Toronto FC on penalty kicks in the final. Then last year the Sounders returned to the final, though this time Seattle lost the rematch with Toronto 2-0.
The team that reached last year’s final returns almost intact as there was little roster turnover during the offseason. The only significant departure was left back/left midfielder Joevin Jones, who signed to play in Germany. The Sounders will also be without forward Jordan Morris, who suffered an ACL tear in his knee and has been declared out for the season. But everyone who started the final other than Jones is back, along with six of the seven players named to the bench. In Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro Seattle has a pair of elite attacking talents, Roman Torres and Chad Marshall the are perhaps the league’s best central defending pair, and goalkeeper Stefan Frei is as good as it gets in MLS.
The lack of departures means Seattle didn’t bring in a lot of new faces, either. However, the Sounders did make a couple of intriguing additions, signing Norwegian international midfielder Magnus Wolff Eikrem and South Korean international defender Kim Kee-hee. In theory those two should provide a boost to the team’s depth. Seattle is also in a position where it’s capable of bringing in another designated player, so the team could still upgrade its firepower.
There’s a strong belief that Seattle is capable of getting back to the finals. Before the season started the Sounders were tied for second in the betting odds for lifting the cup, behind Toronto and on par with Atlanta United, both of which are Eastern Conference teams. Therefore Seattle starts as the favorite in the Western Conference.
Seattle’s campaign, however, got off to a stuttering start Sunday. The Sounders opened the MLS season by losing at home against an expansion team, falling 1-0 to Los Angeles FC. It was a curious game. Seattle played without five projected starters because of injury and rest — the Sounders were keeping more than one eye on Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Mexico’s CD Guadalajara. Yet the Sounders dominated the proceedings, outshooting LAFC 22-5.
And slow starts haven’t stopped the Sounders the past two years. Both years Seattle lost its opener. Both years the Sounders’ sluggish start extended well into the season. And both years Seattle made a late-season run to reach the playoffs, then got hot in the postseason to advance to the final. And don’t forget that the Sounders have never missed the playoffs since joining the league in 2009.
So how will the Sounders fare in the Western Conference this year? Make your prediction here: