Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said his side “embraced the challenge” in their resilient 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, following the disheartening Leagues Cup loss to Club Leon.
Head coach Brian Schmetzer admitted it would take a strong mentality to overcome the underwhelming result in the team’s first international final, but the Sounders proved they have what it takes after defeating former Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City to trump the table with 48 points in 25 games.
"I think after a disappointing result, we could have easily said: 'We're on short rest, we're away from home, it's going to be a difficult game'," Roldan said.
"But I think the guys embraced the challenge, embraced that it was going to be a difficult game. And you saw it in the first half, guys were bought in, willing to sacrifice a part of their game for the good of the team.
"It was a huge win. Obviously with the circumstances with Sporting being at the top with us, we felt like it was like a must-win – a six-point game if we wanted to win the Western Conference.
"We still think there's a lot of room to go up and down in the standings but if we want to achieve what we want to achieve, and that's get first in the Western Conference, we needed to win that game."
The Sounders have nine games left before the end of the season to maintain top spot and qualify directly to the 2021 Major League Soccer playoffs. The post-season tournament is set to kick off with the first round on 19 November but the conference leaders would be incorporated into the tournament during the conference semifinals.
But Roldan isn’t worried about the MLS Cup just yet. "The games don't stop," Roldan he added. "We have another game against San Jose that's going to be difficult and then another game against a top Western side, so it's going to be difficult going forward but the boys are ready to embrace it."