Playoff qualification just the beginning for forward-thinking Sounders

The work is far from done for the Sounders after reaching the MLS postseason for the fifth consecutive season.

Sounders FC had a newfound spark at training on Tuesday, as the team began preparations for Sunday’s regular season finale against the LA Galaxy.

With 51 points through 33 matches, Seattle has qualified for the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Although it took a few weeks to finally get over the final hurdle of clinching a postseason berth, the team knows that in the playoffs, anything can happen.

“Once you enter the playoffs, it’s a cup competition. Every dog can have their day,” Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think there’s a little bit of relief amongst the team. I thought training had good spirit today. We just have to continue to work.”

Much of that spirit came because some pressure was relieved from the team when the postseason bid became a reality on Sunday when the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy played to a scoreless draw. How the final results were tallied to send Seattle to the playoffs wasn’t as important as the season-long journey to reach that destination, though.

It has been a season of ups and downs for Seattle – a year that Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer called “inconsistent” – but through the highs and lows has emerged a weathered team ready to make a deep playoff run.

“The results throughout the season have indicated that we are in the playoffs. It’s a points total and that’s what it’s about,” said goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. “We had a slow start and an awesome middle of the season, then some bad games at the end. It’s not ideal. We can turn it around now and win six or seven games and we’ll be happy. Once you’re in, you’re in and nothing else matters.”

As recently as October 5, Seattle held the top spot in the Western Conference and can still reach that level, though it will take Chivas USA topping both Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers this week. Rather than dwell on other results, Sounders FC is looking at the opportunity that still lies ahead against the Galaxy that could elevate Seattle to the No. 3 in the West, avoiding the Knockout Round game next week.

“We missed opportunities. We’re disappointed at the end of the year because we were in a position that we could compete for the Supporters’ Shield and the conference crown and we didn’t do that. We’re disappointed with that, for sure, “Schmid said. “We want to right that and sort that away, but that doesn’t affect what happens in the playoffs.”

Reaching the postseason was a goal all season for Seattle. Now that it has reached that accomplishment, even greater goals can be reached.

“All of the points that we’ve earned over the year are so we can be here,” defender DeAndre Yedlin said. “Now we’ll look to win it all and I think we have a good chance of that.”

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