Sounders prepare for final playoff push
With just two games left on the schedule, Sigi Schmid gave the Sounders a weekend off to gear up for a playoff fight.
There are only three more weekends on the MLS regular season calendar, but the Sounders FC finds itself among seven teams that don’t have any matches on their schedule this week.
And while probably not preferable because of the incredible momentum that could have been carried over by a 1-0 win in Columbus last week and a healthy roster at his disposal, head coach Sigi Schmid made the most of the off-time by giving the team the weekend off. But not before putting them through two abbreviated games against the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency squad and a Portland Timbers side that featured several players from the Seattle-area PDL ranks.
“When you get toward the end of the season, you probably prefer not to have the weekend off. You want to keep the team in rhythm,” Schmid said. “But it also allows you to ease back on a couple of players and give the team a couple of days off. We’re not treating it like the other breaks we’ve had where we gave the guys three or four days off. It’s just two days off, then we’re coming back to work.”
With a playoff berth hanging in the balances, that leaves the club doing a lot of scoreboard watching.
“It’ll be nice at the end of the weekend to see where we are and what we need to do,” said goalkeeper Kasey Keller. “It’ll be nice to have a little bit of a break to recharge the batteries and get ready for those final two games and a push into the playoffs.”
In addition to the MLS fixtures, Keller also will have his eyes toward a US-Honduras World Cup Qualifying match on Saturday that could propel the US National Team into the World Cup.
“It’ll be nice for the US to finish up that qualifying. Nothing is more stressful than going into that last game thinking that you need the result,” Keller said.
And he should know. In his final year with Fulham in 2008, Keller took the field against Portsmouth knowing that a loss would probably leave his side relegated from the Premiership.
“We had an unbelievable run going and we had to win at Portsmouth to stay up and we did it. There’s no feeling like that,” Keller said. “It’ll be nice going into that last game and not have that pressure, but at the same time I’m confident with this team that if you put them under a little pressure, they’ll rise.”
As for this weekend, Schmid notes that there are games that can have impact on the Sounders’ playoff fate, but they can also determine their own future on the field.
“There’s some results that can favor us this weekend,” Schmid said. “But at the end of the day if we walk on the field in KC and win our game, then we take care of our own future and that’s what’s most important to us.”
The Sounders return to training on Monday and take on the Kansas City Wizards in their final road game of the season Saturday, Oct. 17.