SEATTLE — A playoff spot may already be secured, but the Seattle Sounders won’t have to look very hard to find motivating factors in their MLS regular-season finale.
A win against the LA Galaxy on Sunday evening (9 pm ET, ESPN) would accomplish several important goals. The biggest is probably that they’d avoid a midweek playoff game and book a showdown with Real Salt Lake for the third consecutive season. Almost as big, though, is that a win would end the Sounders’ franchise-worst four-game losing streak.
“It won’t erase all the memories, but it gives you a boost,” Sounders midfielder Brad Evans said this week. “Those are always emotional games. You play 34 games in a season and six or seven stick out when you think four or five years back. These are those games you remember. It’s big games like this. It’s a playoff game, and you have to treat it as such.”
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A few weeks ago, this game seemed to be far more likely to decide the Supporters’ Shield winner than be the determining factor in the lower end of the playoff seedings.
But the Sounders have not won a match since storming to the top of the MLS table with a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Sept. 13 and have been outscored 14-4 in the ensuing six games. A loss could result in them falling into the No. 5 playoff spot and force them to play on Wednesday at the Colorado Rapids, the site of the 5-1 drubbing that started this losing streak.
“They know they have a great opportunity in front of them,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “You go all the way to MLS Cup, nobody is going to talk about how you finished the regular season. We got ourselves invited to the dance, now it’s a matter of just performing. The team’s response has been good. There’s a little bit of relief to know you’re in the playoffs, but you also want to play better than you’ve been paying.”
The Sounders will get their chance to do it against a team that has knocked them out of the playoffs in two of the past three seasons and dealt them some of the worst losses in franchise history.
Helping the Sounders along will be another massive CenturyLink Field crowd. More than 66,000 tickets have already been distributed – meaning Seattle will set the single-season attendance record for the fifth straight year – and the Sounders have gone 7-0-0 with a 17-3 goal-difference in matches where the entire stadium has been opened.
“I think it’s great, backs against the wall,” Evans said. If we approach it like the second leg of almost all our playoff games, I think we come out with a win.”