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Why the Seattle Sounders Won’t Repeat in the 2020 MLS Cup

| November 13, 2020 5:13 am PDT
Seattle Sounders Won’t Defend the MLS Cup in 2020

Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and Seattle Sounders qualifying for the MLS Cup playoffs.

Unsurprisingly, the Washington club has secured a spot in the postseason for the twelfth year in a row. Brian Schmetzer’s men will now bid to become just the fourth team in the history of the competition to win back-to-back MLS Cups.

But that is obviously easier said than done, and it’s reflected in the 2020 MLS Cup odds.

It’s been a crazy year for a number of reasons. Philadelphia Union clinched their first-ever Supporters’ Shield, while heavyweights Atlanta United and LA Galaxy missed out on the playoffs altogether. Something tells me that this year’s postseason is going to spring even more surprises.

Here are five reasons why I believe Seattle Sounders won’t defend the MLS Cup in 2020.

Seattle Faces Unpredictable LAFC

Seattle ended the regular season on a high, crushing San Jose Earthquakes 4-1. The victory ensured that Schmetzer’s men finished second in the Western Conference, setting up a round-one playoff match against seventh-place LAFC.

Remarkably, the Sounders have already faced Bob Bradley’s side on four occasions this year, with LAFC initially claiming a thumping 4-1 victory over Seattle at the MLS is Back Tournament in July.

The Sounders gained their revenge by sealing two wins against the California outfit when the regular season resumed. However, in their previous encounter, LAFC regained the upper hand with a 3-1 victory.

Having already lost twice to LAFC this season, Seattle knows exactly what the Black & Gold is capable of. Yes, Schmetzer’s men have also claimed two wins in this fixture. But last month’s defeat will still be fresh in the memory.

It is no secret that LAFC has been wildly inconsistent throughout 2020, with Bradley’s men failing to hit the heights they scaled last season. But the team has still been able to pick up a number of outstanding results this term, including two big wins over Seattle.

After enduring a below-par campaign, nobody is expecting LAFC to go all the way this year. Indeed, all the pressure will be on the Sounders when the two sides clash at CenturyLink Field later this month.

Recent Poor Form Could Hinder the Sounders

There was a point earlier in the campaign when it looked as though the Sounders were on course to secure the Supporters’ Shield. The team only suffered two defeats in ten outings after the MLS is Back Tournament, with seven wins coming in that time.

But having won just two of their last seven games, there is no hiding from the fact that Seattle is heading into the playoffs in poor form.

Funnily enough, the team’s downturn started with last month’s defeat to LAFC. Two draws followed, before a victory over Vancouver Whitecaps temporarily stopped the rot. However, the Sounders returned to losing ways against Colorado Rapids, with a draw to LA Galaxy coming soon after.

Schmetzer’s men managed to end on a positive note by seeing off San Jose last time out, but their recent form is definitely a cause for concern.

With New York City winning each of their final four regular-season outings and Sporting Kansas City heading into the playoffs on a three-match winning streak, there are plenty of teams coming into the postseason with a lot more momentum than Seattle.

When you consider that eight sides picked up more points than Seattle across their last five games, it is clear that the Sounders are not one of the in-form teams in MLS right now.

Schmetzer’s Backline Has Been Leaking Goals

Believe it or not, Seattle actually finished with the best defensive record in the Western Conference. The Washington club conceded just 23 goals in 22 games, although FC Dallas (24), Sporting KC (25), and Minnesota United (26) were all hot on their heels.

Still, given that the Sounders have only managed to keep two clean sheets in their previous 11 matches, I can seem them struggling to deal with the best attacking teams in the country when the playoffs roll around.

Looking at the biggest picture, the defending MLS Cup champions have achieved just four shutouts in 17 games since the MLS is Back Tournament.

Seattle’s forwards have continuously bailed the team out this season. Raul Ruidiaz (12 goals, 3 assists), Jordan Morris (11 goals, 8 assists), and Nicolas Lodeiro (7 goals, 6 assists) have all played their part. But at the other end of the pitch, things have not been going smoothly.

Ten goalkeepers have kept more clean sheets than Stefan Frei this year. Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to heap all the blame on Frei. But he would probably be the first to admit that he hasn’t had his best season.

Center-back Yeimar Gomez Andrade hasn’t exactly hit the ground running following his arrival from Argentine soccer in February, while fellow defender Shane O’Neill has endured a tough campaign following his January move from Orlando.

It is no coincidence that the Sounders finished with the best defensive record in the West, but their backline is likely to be tested to the limit in the coming weeks.

Competition Is Stronger This Year

In fairness to the Sounders, their level hasn’t really dropped over the past couple of years. Back-to-back second-place finishes in the Western Conference underline the team’s strength, but there is no denying that other sides have improved dramatically.

Sporting KC finished second from bottom in the West last term. This season, the Wizards clinched the top spot in the division. Meanwhile, San Jose and Colorado both missed out on the playoffs in 2019, yet they are two of the in-form teams at the moment.

Over in the East, Columbus and Orlando finished third-bottom and second-bottom respectively last season. This time around, the Crew ended up third, with the Lions in fourth.

We have also seen Philadelphia take their game to another level in 2020. The U picked up 55 points from 34 games last term (1.6 points per game). From just 23 games this season, Philly has racked up 47 points (just over two goals per game).

The Sounders have only played one game less than Philadelphia this term, yet they ended up with eight points less than the new Supporters’ Shield champions.

It feels like the strength of the competition has gone up a notch in 2020, and that is not good news for Seattle.

A Potentially Tough Route to the Final

If the Sounders do make it past LAFC, they will be up against either Portland or Dallas in the semi-finals. The Timbers finished level with Schmetzer’s side on 39 points, while the Toros were only five points behind.

The Sounders have already faced the Timbers four times this year, yet they have only managed to beat them once. Portland has claimed two victories and a draw against Seattle in 2020.

Schmetzer’s men haven’t played against Dallas this season, and they will probably be hoping they don’t have to. The Texans have only lost one of their last five games, keeping three clean sheets during that period.

Winning the MLS Cup isn’t supposed to be easy. After all, you need to beat the best to be the best. But it does seem as though Seattle’s route to the final has the potential to be very tricky.

The Sounders can take confidence from the fact they won each of their four postseason matches last year. But with Schmetzer’s men on a poor run of form and many of their competitors upping their game in recent weeks, Seattle could struggle to navigate their way through the playoffs.

The Wrap-Up

Don’t get me wrong, Seattle is still one of the best teams in MLS. The Washington club has remained a consistent force at the top of American soccer for over a decade now. However, securing back-to-back MLS Cups is no mean feat.

It wouldn’t be the biggest shock in MLS history if the Sounders proved me wrong in the coming weeks, but right now, I feel like there are a number of teams that are better equipped to lift the trophy.

Don’t forget, the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs commence on Friday, November 20, with Seattle and LAFC clashing on Tuesday, November 24.

If you’re interested in betting on the playoffs, I recommend checking out our soccer picks section. You will find match previews for every MLS game, along with free tips and predictions for multiple leagues from across the world.

Ben Morris
Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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