TUKWILA, Wash. – The Seattle Sounders have been presented with a unique opportunity.
The Sounders go into their match against Sporting Kansas City at CenturyLink Field on Saturday (4 pm ET | UniMás, Twitter — Full TV & streaming info) in the midst of a seven-game winning streak – a run that has vaulted them above the playoff line in the Western Conference playoff. Should Seattle push that number to eight with another victory this weekend, it would break a tie with SKC for the record as the longest winning streak in MLS history in a single season in the post-shootout era.
It isn’t every day that a team gets an opportunity to achieve such a benchmark. But with the Sounders still on tenuous ground in the Western Conference standings, head coach Brian Schmetzer said any focus on the historic implications that come with the matchup will have to take a backseat for the time being.
“We’re talking about playoff positioning,” Schmetzer said on Friday. “If the team continues to play well, then you get your opportunities to collect points and you get your opportunities to set records if they’re there to be broken.”
“It’s great what we’ve done up to this point, but they all understand, we’re not in the playoffs yet. There’s still a ways to go and we’ve got some tough games coming up, starting with Saturday.”
Schmetzer knows as well as anyone that results against SKC seldom come easy, regardless of the venue.
The sides have shared many high-stakes battles over the years, including an epic Knockout Round game in the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. The Sounders won that match 1-0 on an 88th-minute game-winner from forward Nelson Valdez, a tally that SKC head coach Peter Vermes still contends should have been called offside. SKC also had a goal of their own wiped off the board in controversial fashion in that game after Matt Besler was flagged offside on a borderline call.
“It’s a good rivalry, it’s been a good rivalry,” Schmetzer said. “I remember the Open Cup [penalty kick shootout in 2012] when [their] goalkeeper came off the line a couple times and nobody talks about that anymore. It’s a good rivalry. Pete’s a great coach, he’s done a fantastic job with his group, kudos to him. It’s going to be an exciting contest.
“With the playoff race tightening, all the points and all that, you start adding some of those things on top of it – they’re on a nice little four-game run – it makes it a little spicier matchup.”
Seattle’s attack has looked much improved over their recent hot streak, but come Saturday, goals may be hard to come by for both teams. Seattle boast arguably the most sound defensive unit in the league at the moment, having conceded just five times over their current run of 10 straight unbeaten matches. SKC, meanwhile, are perennially one of the league’s best defensive sides and haven’t given up a goal in four straight matches heading into Saturday’s fixture.
“It’s going to be tough,” Sounders defender Chad Marshall said. “They’re ahead of us in the standings and they have four shutouts in their last four games – they’re back to their usual self in the back. Difficult to break down and they always play us tough here. It’s going to be a battle, we have to be at our sharpest and come out and get three points for the home crowd.”