Seattle Sounders 2018 Season Review: Down, but Never Out

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Seattle Sounders 2018 Season Review

Editorial (November 14, 2018) — Seattle Sounders FC had a rollercoaster season in Major League Soccer.

A staple of the league’s success, the Sounders have made the playoffs for the last nine years. However, that was put in jeopardy after an early fall in the rankings. But the Sounders were down, but never out. Come July, the Sounders began to turn the page.

Seattle Sounders 2018 Season Review

After two draws against the Colorado Rapids and Atlanta United FC, Seattle embarked on a nine-game winning streak. The Sounders broke the MLS record for consecutive wins. More importantly, Seattle found themselves making the playoffs for the 10th-straight year.

Seattle finished the year with an 18-5-11 record, securing second place in the Western Conference. Seattle finished in second, due to some help by FC Dallas, who lost the second place spot after falling to the Rapids in the final regular-season game.

The Sounders finished with 59 points, only behind Sporting Kansas City.

Seattle earned a first-round bye in the playoffs, awaiting their opponent. Fate decided on a rivalry for Seattle, as the Sounders were matched up against the Portland Timbers. Seattle fell twice to Portland, but won one contest during the regular-season.

However, in the Western Conference semifinals, Seattle fell on penalty kicks, after a thrilling 120-minute second leg at CenturyLink Field.

Team MVP: Stefan Frei

Nicolás Lodeiro had a career year and Raúl Ruidíaz led the team in scoring, despite his signing in only July. However, nobody on the Sounders had a better year than Stefan Frei.

The lack of wins at the beginning of the season might counteract the claim, but Frei kept his team alive in matches. Seattle did have some bad losses, but in those losses, Frei and the defense never looked bad.

Instead, goals just weren’t going in the opposing net.

Frei was in a battle with Zack Steffen for the Goalkeeper of the Year title in MLS. However, the honor ended up going to the Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper.

Plenty of times, Sounders teammates proclaimed how Frei saved them, or just kept them in games. Frei, who featured in his fifth season for Seattle, made 114 regular-season saves and recorded seven shutouts.

What Went Wrong in 2018

Starting out the season with three losses didn’t help the Sounders. However, to pin-point the major problem of 2018 was something that can’t necessarily be controlled.

Seattle suffered plenty of injuries, especially throughout the months of May and June.

Losing Jordan Morris for the year in preseason training was devastating and a nightmare for head coach Brian Schmetzer. Víctor Rodríguez spent a majority of the season injured, featuring in only 19 games. Meanwhile, Handwalla Bwana spent nearly four months on the sideline.

In leg one of the clash with the Timbers in the playoffs, Chad Marshall — who was a contender for Defender of the Year, but fell to New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long — and Cristian Roldan sustained injuries.

However, in the final, Román Torres and Harry Shipp filled in admirably.

What Went Right in 2018

To be oddly specific, the defense worked out well, more than anybody expected.

Why?

There’s a language barrier on the defense. Kim Kee-Hee, a native of South Korea, was picked up during the off-season and barely spoke a lick of English when he joined the Sounders. Throughout the season, Schmetzer gave updates on Kim and his process of learning English.

Schmetzer even joked that Marshall was trying to learn Korean.

However, the defense worked better than anyone could have imagined because they found ways to communicate. During an interview, Kelvin Leerdam said that the Sounders communicate with Kim through language apps, a translator and through sign language.

Give a lot of credit to Kim Kee-Hee for adjusting so fast to a new country, new team and a new language. He’s been one of the most underrated Sounders players.

What to Improve on for 2019

Seattle was close to making a third-straight MLS Cup final.

However, if the team wants to compete for a big-time title, they need to develop a relationship between Jordan Morris, who will be back, and Ruidíaz. That will be the biggest offensive tandem for the Sounders.

It will help to get Kim more accustomed with English, too.

PHOTO: Members of the Seattle Sounders FC celebrate a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes on Oct. 28, 2018, at CenturyLink Field. Photo courtesy of Mike Fiechtner/Seattle Sounders FC.

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