After a season-opening loss, Seattle Sounders Women have embraced the pressures involved in defending a league title. [Seattle Sounders Women]
When you win a league championship, the target is on your back.
When you go more than 11 months without a loss, you are the hunted.
The Seattle Sounders Women have been facing the increased pressure of attempting to repeat as league champions all season.
On May 26th the pressure became too much to handle, for an upstart expansion Vancouver Island FC team defeated the Sounders 2-1 in front of a shocked Seattle crowd.
Many teams would let a season debut loss of that nature tear down team moral and impact the team’s level of play. The Sounders viewed the game as a wakeup call.
With coach Scott Ford, who has asked his players to embrace the additional pressure of being defending champions, the Sounders Women have rallied to four straight victories including a dominating 4-0 win on Saturday over conference foe Eugene Timbers FC Azul.
Ford has noticed the teamwide paradigm shift.
“I think just being the Sounders Women puts a target on your back; add to that being National Champions and it certainly puts pressure on the group,” Ford said. “Taking it game-by-game and just focusing on what we can control, which is our energy and effort, has helped take some of that pressure off. As we have told the players, pressure can be your friend if you have the right mindset.”
The mindset is clear: embrace the pressure.
After the season opening loss, Seattle has been on an absolute tear. Its four consecutive victories have them firmly planted in first place in the Northwest Conference, and they do not seem to be stopping soon. Ford credited the team’s victory over Eugene to the workrate the players have consistently displayed in practice.
“I think all the hard work on the training ground came to fruition in (Sunday’s) game,” Ford said. “It was a real team performance, quality in possession and dynamic and creative going forward.”
To win a National Championship, a team must have an incredibly high level of commitment and perseverance. In order to cultivate those traits, the squad must have a strong sense of leadership. On the field, captain Morgan Weaver undoubtably leads the squad.
Weaver, a Washington State University senior, grew up playing soccer in Renton, Washington. As a youth player, she spent a number of years playing within the U.S. Soccer Player Development Programsand was invited to the 2012 U.S. National Training Camp. This past season she was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team.
Weaver’s technical prowess and tactical understanding has been on display all season. Yet Ford is most impressed with Weaver’s leadership ability.
“Morgan Weaver is a real leader within our group, very humble, hard-working and accountable,” Ford said. “Her attitude is fantastic, it’s no surprise she is having success in the Pac-12. It has been an absolute pleasure coaching her”
With only three games left of regular season play, the Sounders Women have officially returned to their dominating form. Now, the only pressure the team feels is the kind that they put onto opposing clubs.
As other WPSL clubs prepare for their respective playoff runs, the target is firmly stuck on Seattle’s back. Take your best shot.