Sounders FC vs. Colorado Rapids
MLS Cup Playoffs; Knockout Round
October 30, 2013, 7:30 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: KONG 6/16 (in Seattle); ROOT Sports (regionally); 97.3 FM; La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)
The task ahead of Sounders FC on Wednesday night is a simple one, but not one achieved simply.
Win in the Knockout Round match against the Colorado Rapids and advance to the Western Conference Semifinals to face its top rivals the Portland Timbers. Lose and the season is over.
Head Coach Sigi Schmid and his team are aware of the stakes in the battle and on Tuesday said they are ready to engage with the fifth-seeded Rapids.
“This is a must-win game, for sure. During the season there aren’t games like that until you get to the end and you have to win to get into the playoffs,” Schmid said. “We know it’s going to be tough. But we’d rather be doing this, getting ready for a game on Wednesday, than cleaning out our lockers.”
The Sounders played to a 1-1-1 record against the Rapids this season, with each of the three meetings taking on unique personalities. In the first match, Seattle took home a 1-0 result on Obafemi Martins’ first goal for Seattle for the club’s first win of the season. The second came at CenturyLink Field when DeAndre Yedlin and Drew Moor traded goals in a 1-1 draw. In the final meeting, Colorado raced to a 5-1 victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on October 5.
That result may be the most recent and there are certainly lessons to learn from the match, but it was hardly indicative of the matchup.
“We’ve got a bad taste in our mouth from that last game for sure. We’ve got to make sure we get off to a better start,” Schmid said. “We feel that being at home is a plus for us. I thought we played some good soccer against LA on Sunday. I thought there were some good combinations. Looking at our overall play, it was solid. If we can play in that same manner, I think things will take care of itself.”
While Seattle will address their deficiencies in the most recent defeat, the team will also look at the prior eight matches, in which Sounders FC went 7-0-1, and try to rekindle what it was able to do successfully to exploit Colorado.
“We’re ready for a battle,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “We’ve been successful against them in the past. And that’s something we can look back on and see where we were successful.”
Both teams are playing on short rest after finishing off the regular season on Sunday – Seattle with a 1-1 draw against the LA Galaxy and Colorado with a 3-0 loss in Vancouver against Whitecaps FC.
Both teams are also suffering injury woes to key players. Martins has missed the last three matches for Sounders FC with a groin injury, while a concussion held Rapids midfielder Dillon Powers out of the last three matches.
While Martins was unable to train on Tuesday, Schmid did not rule him out as a possibility for Seattle on Wednesday.
“He’s a very talented player, so if he wakes up and comes out of bed tomorrow and it feels great, then that’s going to change things for us,” Schmid said. “If we had to decide today, he wouldn’t be playing, but we’ll have to see how he’s feeling tomorrow.”
While the Rapids have plenty for Seattle to be aware of – the speed of forward Deshorn Brown, the playmaking of midfielder Gabriel Torres and the shot-stopping of goalkeeper Clint Irwin, for example – Sounders FC’s focus for Wednesday’s match lies in its own approach and mentatlity.
“We have to play well. It is going to be a tough game, but we need to go out and play hard,” said Clint Dempsey, who missed the most recent Colorado match with a hamstring strain. “We need to fight for each other and not concede goals as easy. If we can keep a clean sheet we have the quality up top to score goals and we should be able to get it done.”
Echoed midfielder Adam Moffat, “You have to give everything you have or you’re done.”