Sounders FC @ Colorado Rapids
October 5, 2013, 7 pm PT; Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
TV/Radio: NBC Sports; 97.3 FM; La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)
On Saturday, Sounders FC has the chance to be the first team in Major League Soccer to clinch a berth in the MLS Cup playoffs with a win over the Colorado Rapids.
The team’s motivation drives much deeper than punching a ticket to the postseason though.
“I think we’ll be ok with a playoff spot. I think more importantly is getting the win and focusing on the Supporters’ Shield,” said midfielder Brad Evans. “I think this team is good enough and is obviously a playoff team, but we have loftier goals than just making the playoffs at this point.”
Seattle is in uncharted territory. A playoff team in each of the club’s first four seasons, it is a legitimate contender for the Supporters’ Shield for the best regular season record. At 15-8-6, the Sounders trail only the New York Red Bulls, who are one point ahead at 15-9-7. Seattle is even on points with Real Salt Lake (15-10-6), but like New York, Seattle holds games in hand over RSL.
That gives Seattle the advantage heading into the final month of the regular season, but only if they can capitalize on those extra games.
However, the Rapids have gone 7-2-4 in their last 13 matches, moving as high as second in the Western Conference before settling at their current spot at fifth. Spurred on by a stronger defensive effort after allowing 12 goals in a five-game stretch, the Rapids are now tied for third in MLS, allowing a 1.03 goals against average.
“Their back five has been pretty consistent, so there is a good understanding that those guys have developed,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s a team that’s found their way of playing. The style suits them and they’ve done well.”
Sounders FC has history on its side against Colorado. Seattle is 8-1-2 all-time against the Rapids, including the current string of eight straight unbeaten matches that dates back to 2010. That includes an important win this season at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on April 20. After an 0-3-2 start to the MLS season, that win triggered a six-match unbeaten streak that turned Seattle’s season around.
“It was important to get that win on the road and those things are important – to establish that we’re a good road team,” Schmid said. “We just have to go out there with the same concentration and focus that we did the last time.”
For all of the history between the two teams and the success both have had over the last few months, to Evans the match comes down to Seattle’s desire and ability to compete for the top regular season prize.
“We have to focus on us and our march to, hopefully, the Supporters’ Shield,” he said. “I think the best soccer is still yet to come for us.”