Seattle Sounders FC completed an extraordinary 2018 MLS regular season Sunday.
The Sounders concluded the regular season by beating the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Sunday at CenturyLink Field, and that put the final exclamation point on what was yet another remarkable mid-season turnaround.
After a 3-2 home loss to rival Portland on June 30, Seattle was 3-9-3 and in the midst of a lost season. However, the Sounders performed a dramatic U-turn, going 15-2-2 over their final 19 contests. That stretch included an MLS-record nine-game winning streak, and Seattle heads into the postseason riding a five-game winning streak.
The turnaround coincides with the arrival of Peruvian international forward Raul Ruidiaz, who scored 10 goals in 14 appearances after arriving as a designated-player signing on June 29. But the team as a whole has played better the past four months, with midfield playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro (seven goals and 12 assists over the final 19 games) in particular rediscovering his footing after overcoming the disappointment of being left off Uruguay’s World Cup roster.
As a result, Seattle went from being way out of the playoff pitcure to climbing all the way to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, meaning Seattle earned a first-round bye into the playoffs.
This is an eerily familiar pattern for the Sounders. Each of the past two seasons Seattle started the season so poorly that fans were writing off the team’s streak of making the playoffs in every season of franchise history. But both years the Sounders rallied in the second half of the season to get into the playoffs, then continued their run in the postseason all the way to the MLS Cup final, winning it in 2016 and losing in the final last year.
Seattle now awaits its playoff opponent. The Western Conference knockout round features No. 3 LAFC against No. 6 Real Salt Lake and No. 4 FC Dallas versus the No. 5 Portland Timbers. The Sounders will face the highest-seeded team that advances in a home-and-home set, beginning with a road game next Sunday and concluding with a home game on Nov. 8 (top-seeded Sporting Kansas City faces the lower advancing seed).
So what happens this year? Does Seattle once again romp through the postseason and claim its second MLS Cup? Or do the Sounders trip up somewhere along the way? Make your prediction here: