The Sounders understood a quick start to the 2019 season was important for their own psyche and their bigger goals in the context of the new MLS playoff format. So far, Seattle is backing up what it hoped to accomplish.
"The atmosphere is great," Jordan Morris said after the Sounders improved to 3-0-0 by beating Chicago on March 16. "Guys are working really hard. There's a belief that this team can do really good things."
Off to its best start since its inaugural season of 2009, Seattle is one of two teams with perfect records going into this week's round of matches. The Sounders travel north for a Cascadia Cup rivalry match at Vancouver on Saturday. Toronto is off to a 2-0-0 start as well, with the Reds set to face New York City FC on Friday night.
The first half of the season has been a slog for Seattle in recent campaigns, leaving the club trying to crawl back from the bottom of the conference standings to get into playoff contention. While Seattle showed resiliency in getting back each season, it was also exhausting.
With the MLS playoff structure moving to a single-elimination format and home-field advantage being a true benefit, the Sounders knew a similar start this season wouldn't be acceptable. And Seattle is doing it with offense. The Sounders and Los Angeles FC both have 10 goals scored already, but Seattle has played one fewer game. Of Seattle's 10 goals, five have come in the first 30 minutes of matches.
"We're going to come out and we're going to try and impose our will on teams early," Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. There's also optimism about a rebound in Toronto after the Reds finished last season in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and missed the postseason following the club's MLS title. On top of its hot start to begin this season, Toronto could also see the debut of Alejandro Pozuelo against NYCFC. The 27-year-old Spanish midfielder is making the move to MLS after starring at KRC Genk in Belgium where he had eight goals and 17 assists in all competitions.
CENTURY MARK: Montreal's Ignacio Piatti became the 44th player in MLS history to reach 100 career goals and assists combined when he scored a pair in the Impact's 3-1 win over Orlando City. Piatti reached the century mark in 129 appearances, the ninth fastest in league history. Sebastian Giovinco was the fastest, reaching 100 goals and assists combined in just 95 matches. Robbie Keane is the only other player to reach the mark in less than 100 appearances.
A LITTLE DEFENSE: Portland was already facing a challenging start to the season with renovations to its home stadium putting the Timbers on the road until the beginning of June. Portland seems to have left its defense at home.
The Timbers have allowed at least three goals in each of their first three games, the first MLS team to have that happen to open the season. Portland opened the season with a 3-3 draw against Colorado, lost 4-1 at Los Angeles FC and then fell 3-0 to FC Cincinnati on March 17.
Portland returns to action this week against the LA Galaxy and is unlikely to match the MLS record for most goals allowed in the first four games of a season held by Minnesota United with 18. But the Timbers would move into second place if they allow two against LA. Six teams have allowed 11 goals in the first four matches.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Philadelphia striker David Accam had two goals and an assist in the Union's 3-0 rout last week of Columbus, one of the few league games contested during the international break. It was his first start of the season.
GAME OF THE WEEK: While the Cascadia showdown in Vancouver will get plenty of attention, let's focus on the Eastern Conference and Columbus visiting defending champion Atlanta United. It's been a scuffling start for the defending champions with two draws, a loss and just two goals in three matches. Columbus seemed to be adjusting to life without Gregg Berhalter just fine by starting 2-0-1, but was thumped by Philadelphia last week.