TUKWILA, Wash. – For some teams, trying to complete a first-ever treble would ramp up the pressure. The Seattle Sounders, however, say securing two out of three puts them at ease.
The Sounders kick off postseason play Sunday evening, hitting the road to take on FC Dallas in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals in the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T (9 pm ET, ESPN2 in US, TSN2 in Canada).
Seattle are riding high coming into the matchup, fresh off a big Supporters’ Shield-clinching victory over the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field last weekend. The Sounders also have a US Open Cup already to their name this season, meaning a 2014 MLS Cup title would give Seattle an impressive total of three trophies for the campaign.
Speaking with reporters after Seattle’s practice on Thursday, midfielder Brad Evans said Seattle’s Supporters’ Shield victory may allow his team to play more relaxed and confidently as the Sounders prepare for the playoff marathon.
“Winning the Supporters’ Shield I think takes a little bit of pressure off your shoulders and going in maybe a bit more relaxed and knowing we’ve done a phenomenal job this year,” Evans said. “It’s nothing we haven’t seen before so there’s no reason to come in and play nervous and do anything out of the ordinary.”
Dallas topped Seattle 3-1 the last time the teams met in Frisco on Sept. 24. But Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said that loss might actually bode well for his squad, as they prepare for a chance to redeem the underwhelming performance.
“I’d always rather play a team we lost to the last time,” Schmid said. “That left a sour taste in our mouth. I know we weren’t happy with the game we played in Dallas…I know that’s going to make it easier to motivate our team.”
Seattle does have two victories over Dallas on the season, a 3-2 victory in Frisco on April 12 and a 2-1 home triumph on May 7.
The Sounders have even more riding on Sunday’s opening match on the road, with away goals now serving as the tiebreaker should the teams score the same amount of goals over the two-game set. The away-goal rule is new to the MLS playoffs this season.
“It’s massive,” Evans said of the away-goal rule change. “I think it puts more emphasis on away teams playing better soccer and trying to make it a better game and not just sitting back and defending for 90 minutes and hoping you get a result at home.”
Schmid said that defender Chad Marshall is expected to play Sunday after nursing a sore neck during training this week, meaning that the Sounders also have the luxury of fielding a more-or-less healthy squad as the postseason gets underway.
Ari Liljenwall covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.