Sounders taking playoff mentality to season finale

Sounders taking playoff mentality to season finale

With over 64,000 fans expected at CenturyLink Field, it's bound to be an intense affair between Seattle and the LA Galaxy.

Sounders FC vs LA Galaxy October 27, 2013, 6 pm PT; CenturyLink Field TV/Radio: ESPN; 97.3 FM; La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)

Following Sounders FC’s 2-0 loss to FC Dallas last week, midfielder Brad Evans called the regular season finale Seattle’s MLS Cup. At that point, Seattle had not yet clinched a playoff berth, but the LA Galaxy’s scoreless draw with the San Jose Earthquakes one day later punched Seattle’s ticket to the postseason. However, that doesn’t change Evans’ approach to Sunday’s match against the Galaxy at CenturyLink Field.

“It’s a must-win for us. We have to treat it like a playoff game,” said Evans.

On the surface, there is nothing more at stake than playoff position, as both Seattle and LA have clinched playoff berths, but Seattle is looking to build momentum heading into the postseason. Getting a win would not only accomplish that, but also pull them up out of the Knockout Round game – a midweek, single-game elimination playoff between the fourth- and fifth-seeded teams in each conference.

Seattle has gone winless in the last six matches, losing in the last four, and the team knows how important a win can be to turn the tide on the current slump.

“There’s no doubting the fact that we’re unhappy with the results of the last four games, so to get a result that is in the other direction is something that we’re looking to do,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “They know they’ve got a great opportunity in front of them. We got ourselves invited to the dance, now it’s a matter of just performing.”

For Seattle, performance may come down simply to mentality.

That was the theme as players talked about the match this week, knowing they have a difficult opponent on the horizon and that they have been successful throughout the year against playoff foes, particularly at CenturyLink Field, where Seattle holds a 10-2-4 record this season.

“To get the right mentality, you have to play with all the concentration. You have to train like it’s a game,” said midfielder and captain Mauro Rosales. “You can’t have your minds on other things because they have dangerous players, they have a good team and a good coach. It’s a good test to prove which position we are.”

Having a playoff mentality at home may be just the boost Seattle needs. In home playoff games, Seattle is 2-1-2 all-time and 2-0-1 in the last two years. Both victories have come when the Sounders had their backs to the wall, trailing 3-0 after the first leg against Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Semifinals in 2011 and against the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference Championship series last year.

“If we approach it like we did in the second leg of all of our playoff games, I think we come out with a win,” Evans said. “I wish we could approach every game like that, but with the longevity of the season, it’s difficult to have that kind of intensity all the time.”

By all accounts, training has been competitive this week, but the overall team mood is also different as the playoffs draw ever-nearer.

“I think we’re going to be a different team coming into the LA game. The mood is better,” said defender DeAndre Yedlin. “We start at a clean slate and anything can happen.”

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