SEATTLE — Dealt a bit of an emotional blow earlier in the day, the Seattle Sounders took care of the only business they could control.
The Sounders’ 3-1 win over FC Dallas on Sunday clinched no worse than third-place in the West, helping salve any ill-feelings they may have felt from news that the Portland Timbers had clinched the Cascadia Cup just before kickoff.
“I think this is one of the most important games of the season so far,” said Sounders midfielder Brad Evans, who scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner. “We made a statement, and if we play well next Sunday (against defending champions LA Galaxy), I think we give ourselves a good chance going into the playoffs.
“If we can't give (Sounders fans the Cascadia Cup), then we need to give them something else.”
Evans was obviously alluding to bringing the kind of playoff success that has so far proved elusive to the Sounders in their three previous seasons. Despite strong regular-season performances and three U.S. Open Cups, the Sounders have yet to win a playoff series.
Avoiding an extra midweek playoff game is a good step toward that goal.
“It’s massive,” Sounders interim coach Brian Schmetzer said, after improving to 2-0-0 in his career while filling in for the suspended Sigi Schmid. “It’s just an extra game on an already busy schedule. We’ve had a couple injuries and we’re trying to get back at it. It certainly would have put a lot more mileage and a little bit more pressure to get us to where we want to be.”
While the season finale on the road against the Galaxy is not entirely devoid of meaning -- the Sounders would essentially guarantee themselves second in the West with a win -- the stakes are considerably lower now.
The Sounders can start preparing for Real Salt Lake, who is guaranteed to be their opponent in the conference semifinals. The Galaxy also have nothing to play for aside from preparing for their first-round game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, who clinched their playoff spot despite failing to get a result against the Timbers.
This performance was far from perfect, but the Sounders did show the kind of attacking acumen that has been lacking against top competition recently. All three of the Sounders’ goals were the product of some quality build-up and only the goalkeeping of Kevin Hartman kept it as close as it was.
The best illustration of that kind of play was the the third goal. Eddie Johnson got the ball at the top of the penalty area and threaded a pass to Fredy Montero on the left side of the penalty area. Montero took a couple touches toward goal then sent in a cross that found Mauro Rosales all alone at far post.
"I think we are hungry more than anything,” Evans said. “We can compete with anybody, and we have shown that throughout the year. I think that we are confident, but we aren't overconfident. I think we are playing with our backs against the wall and a chip on our shoulder.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.