In the quiet losing locker room at San Jose last weekend, Seattle veteran Brad Evans looked to the Sounders’ next game and applied the big label: must-win.
“Each loss can feel different,” Evans said. “Sometimes a win feels like you steal it. This loss feels like we progressed from last game. Now this coming weekend becomes a must-win for us at home.”
That next game arrives at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, when the Houston Dynamo visits fully opened CenturyLink Field.
Yet in the days leading up to the match, most Sounders downplayed any particular pressure coming from their first back-to-back losses of the season.
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“It’s not a bad thing to have consecutive losses (20) games into the season,” veteran Chad Barrett said. “That’s a pretty good season right there. That’s why you open up and you do well in the beginning of the season. You have your good stretch, you have a little bit of a bad stretch (and) it doesn’t really hurt you too much. But two games is enough, and we need to right the ship.”
Seattle had been sailing along with a 12-4-2 record that was not only the best in Major League Soccer this season, but one of the best in league history. Then the team paused for a friendly — a 3-3 draw with Tottenham of the English Premier League — and they haven’t added a point in the standings since. They haven’t scored a goal since. The Sounders returned to league play with a 3-0 home loss to Los Angeles, and followed that with the 1-0 loss at San Jose.
Still, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid uses the “must-win” label only when it fits literally, such as his team’s Wednesday match against Chicago in the single-
elimination U.S. Open Cup.
“At this stage,” he said, “what’s a must is just to play well — continue to play well and continue to play better, better than we have over the past two games.”
Unfortunately for the Sounders, they once again seem to be facing a team on the upswing. Seattle faced Los Angeles when the Galaxy had lost only one of its previous nine matches, and played San Jose on the heels of its 5-1 rout of Chicago.
Now the Dynamo arrives immediately after snapping an eight-game winless streak last weekend with a 1-0 win over D.C. United.
Houston also has strengthened its roster with the additions of U.S. national team defender DaMarcus Beasley and Honduran midfielder Luis Garrido.
“You can’t take them for granted,” Barrett said. “They had a good win last week against D.C., and they could be changing their season. And of course we want to be getting out of the slump that we’re in, and we need to do that with a win at home.”
The Sounders also may come into this game with renewed roster options as midfielder Lamar Neagle and defenders Chad Marshall, Djimi Traore and Leo Gonzalez all trained this week and seem restored to health.
There is less certainty about the status of right back DeAndre Yedlin, who traveled overseas late in the week as a deal was being negotiated for his transfer to Tottenham. Yedlin was expected back in Seattle by Sunday, but there were no guarantees he would be ready to play.
However, Seattle’s other three All-Stars — Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Osvaldo Alonso — all are expected to be ready after playing 45 minutes against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be a good game,” Alonso said. “But we are at home. We have to play good soccer and give to the fans the three points.”