Will Bruin - Seattle Sounders - celebrates a goal with a thumbs-up
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Brisendine: Do Seattle really have easy road to MLS Cup?

You know how underdogs are. They feed on disrespect – and where there isn't any, they're not shy about manufacturing it.

So when the Houston Dynamo's Mauro Manotas said earlier this week that, "We were talking about that in the locker room, that there have been many comments about how Seattle has it ‘easy’," it would be easy to dismiss that as one more bit of troops-rallying in the media.

Except people do think that way, what with the Sounders defending their MLS Cup title and all – and Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson, who'd expected his own club to get past Houston in the Western Conference semis and take on the Sounders in the first leg of the conference final on Tuesday night, came out and said so in as many words in a video interview on the club website.

While he'd predicted the Dynamo to be better this season after last year's cellar finish in the West, Paulson said, "They're not a better team than us. The better team doesn't always go through, but I think there's a pretty big gap between us and them.

"We should be gearing up for a battle right now with Seattle, which would be epic. We were going to have a lot of guys coming back for that series. As it stands, Seattle's got an easy path to MLS Cup, and that makes it a little bit harder."

Paulson's comments come heavily salted, and you could argue that he has good reason for it. He's right that BBVA Compass Stadium surface has been an artillery range throughout the postseason, and that Portland were riddled with injuries, and that based on their regular-season record they had every reason to hope for an all-Cascadia West final against their archrivals.

But you know what? For the past two seasons, the road out of the West to the MLS Cup Final – and the title itself – hasn't run through the top of the regular-season table. It's gone right through the Knockout Round.

In 2015, Paulson's own team needed 11 rounds of penalties – and Saad Abdul-Salaam's infamous double-post miss – to get past Sporting Kansas City in the one-and done match. Last season, also against Sporting, Seattle prevailed 1-0 in the knockout round on a Nelson Valdez header that might not have passed the Video Review sniff test had that yet been in play.

And this year – once more against Sporting? Yeah, that'd be Houston emerging from the Knockout Round with one extra match's worth of momentum and an underdog fire in the belly. Sure, they were facing a team missing MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Tim Melia – but in the postseason, you take your breaks, you move on and you take notice of the people who say you don't deserve to be there.

You really want to stoke that by claiming Seattle have it easy? Go ahead – but if the whole thing blows up in your face, don't say you didn't see it coming.

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