Now, the defending MLS Cup champions need to get healthy.
Already without forward Jordan Morris (hamstring) and team captain Osvaldo Alonso (quad) for Sunday's 4-0 thrashing of FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders were dealt another blow when midfielder Gustav Svensson had to be subbed off in the 23rd minute with a hamstring injury of his own.
With a win on Decision Day presented by AT&T against the Colorado Rapids, the Sounders can clinch the second seed in the Western Conference and a first-round bye, something that Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said would be a nice luxury as he tries to get his team right physically ahead of the playoffs.
“[Getting the bye] is important,” Schmetzer told reporters after the win over FCD. “I think our club has been pretty successful in play-in games but obviously not having a play-in game is something that we haven’t achieved yet. So, there’s still one more game to go, so we have to make sure we’re laser-focused on our last game of the year.
“Would it be nice? Yes, it certainly would give us a little bit of rest in that short week between the start of the playoffs. So that’s something we’re definitely going to go after.”
Schmetzer said that Svensson is scheduled to undergo an MRI on the injured hamstring on Monday, at which point the team will have a better idea of how long the Swedish midfielder will be out of commission.
Any extended absence for Svensson that leaks into the postseason would be a crucial loss for the Sounders. The 30-year-old has emerged as one of the club’s most consistent players in his debut season in Seattle and has also acted as Alonso’s unquestioned top replacement.
“Gustav has done really, really well for this club, and that was a big blow for us,” Schmetzer said. “He’s been such a good foot soldier for us, and his play had earned him his shot back with the Swedish national team, so that was a big blow.
“But the message to the group after the game, was ‘Yeah, we missed Gustav. We lost a good player. But the next man stepped forward.’”
The Sounders will close the regular season playing host to a Colorado squad in the midst of a down year that has seen them go 9-18-6 with a -17 goal differential. But in the ever-unpredictable world of MLS, Sounders forward Will Bruin said his team can’t afford to look past anybody, particularly with the West’s second seed on the line.
“This last game is just as important because you want the bye,” Bruin said. “You don’t want to have to play a play-in game because it’s kind of a toss-up in this league with all the parity. So, we’re going to enjoy this but we’re going to regroup. This can’t be a trap game against Colorado.”