There is very much that drives the Sounders FC as they prepare to face the LA Galaxy in the regular season finale on Sunday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
And while the result of Real Salt Lake’s meeting with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday at RSL’s Rio Tinto Stadium will bear a strong impact on Seattle’s Western Conference Semifinal pairing with RSL, the Sounders FC’s focus is not on just doing enough to take the No. 2 seed and home field advantage in that series.
They are driven more by the need to win to gain points to enhance their chances of hosting the MLS Cup final if they reach the league’s championship game and to keep the momentum from a strong second-half to the season that has seen them go 8-2-7 since June 30 and unbeaten in their last four matches.
“The last few games we’ve gotten good results and we’ve been playing well,” said defender Marc Burch. “The better you’re playing before the playoffs, the better you’ll do in the playoffs. It’s all about momentum and if we carry it over to Sunday, we’ll have a good game.”
The Sounders have had a lot of success against the Galaxy this season, winning their two previous meetings with both matches played at CenturyLink Field.
It started with a 2-0 win on May 2, with Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero providing the scoring for the Sounders. Then on August 5, the Sounders laid a 4-0 pasting of the Galaxy in front of a crowd of 60,908. Johnson and Montero again contributed to the scoreline, with Alex Caskey and Andy Rose adding their first MLS goals.
If that form continues, the Sounders will build a lot of confidence going into the playoffs.
“Probably the most important thing is for our guys to stay in the rhythm,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “You don’t want to go, necessarily, two weeks without playing a game if you can avoid it. Especially when other teams are playing, so you want to make sure you stay in a regular rhythm.”
While the Sounders have had the Galaxy’s number this season, LA has lost just twice in their last 15 games, going 9-2-4 in that stretch. Like the Sounders, they are looking to keep their momentum into their one-game playoff with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday, November 1, giving LA coach Bruce Arena a similar conundrum heading into the match that Schmid carries.
“He’s probably thinking the same thing. He wants his guys to stay in rhythm, he doesn’t want their last game to have been a week ago or ten days before they play,” Schmid speculated. “I think he’s going to be cautious as to who he plays, but I think you’re going to see a lot more of a first-choice lineup.”
Beyond even their first round playoff series, though the Sounders have an eye on the MLS Cup final. Under this year’s format, the team that reaches the final with the best record will host the championship match. The Sounders would need Sporting Kansas City to fall in the playoffs and DC United to either lose or draw on Saturday against the Chicago Fire or for DC to get knocked out of the playoffs as well.
That complicated, though not entirely unlikely scenario, would put the MLS Cup final at CenturyLink Field for the second time in four years, but the first with Seattle appearing in the match.
First things first, though, the Sounders are focused on getting a result in Los Angeles, where the Sounders haven’t lost a league match since July 4, 2010, going 2-0-3 at the Home Depot Center against the Galaxy and Chivas USA in that stretch.
Kickoff on Sunday is scheduled for 6 pm Pacific with national television coverage on ESPN.