After raising their latest MLS championship banner, it’s time for the Seattle Sounders to move on. And, they might have the means to motivate them toward another title run in 2020.
It should be an even more spirited atmosphere than usual at CenturyLink Field on Sunday when the Sounder open the season against new-look Chicago Fire FC.
The Sounders and their supporters have waited plenty long to celebrate their second league title in four seasons one last time. Seattle won their final six games, including the playoffs, capped with a 3-1 victory over Toronto FC in the MLS Cup final.
The club is essentially the same from last season with the likes of Raul Ruidiaz (15 goals over all 2019 competitions), Jordan Morris (13 goals), midfielder Cristian Roldan and Kelvin Leerdam on the back-end leading the way. Colombian defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade also is a nice addition to a club that could very well start slow, but once again rise to the occasion when it counts.
Being stunningly knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions League this week was a severe blow to the collective pride and ego of the Sounders, but they have an entire MLS season to make things right and use that setback a fuel going forward.
“I think you have to look at it as a wakeup call, try to learn from it and see what we did well,” keeper Stefan Frei told the Sounders’ official website. “We screwed up, (but) the silver lining is that we have a chance to give our full focus on to the season opener and the other games to come … Let’s make a push for (the) Supporters’ Shield and it starts on Sunday.”
Seattle topped Chicago 4-2 on the road last season with Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro each recording a goal with an assist. Ruidiaz also scored. That match was played in suburban Chicago, but the Fire are back down on the city’s lakefront at Soldier Field.
That’s not all that is new with the Chicago club for the 2020 campaign.
Under new owner Joe Mansueto, the franchise has gone through a rebranding with a new name and logo. George Heitz is the new sporting director, Sebastian Pelzer as technical director and former FC Basel and United States-under 17 manager Raphael Wicky has taken over the reins as on-field manager.
The Fire have made only one playoff appearance in seven seasons (2017) and won just twice in their last 29 league road matches.
“We want to win everyday in training and we want to win our games,” Wicky told the Fire’s official website. “Making the playoffs is one of the big objectives, but that shouldn’t be the end of the objectives.”
C.J. Sapong scored a team-high 13 goals last season, but the Fire dealt with plenty of offensive inconsistency. They scored four or more goals five times but where shut out on eight occasions. The addition of Robert Beric and Luka Stojanovic could help add some consistency to the cause.